Category Archives: Fear-mongering

TSA to Allow Small Knives on Planes

WSJ | Mar 5, 2013

By JACK NICAS

NA-BV342A_KNIFE_NS_20130305182706The Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday it would soon allow fliers to carry certain smaller knives onto airplanes, one of the biggest moves to scale back the stringent airport-security measures established after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Beginning April 25, the TSA will allow fliers to bring knives aboard with blades no longer than 2.36 inches and no wider than half an inch. The permitted knives—which can’t have molded handles, fixed blades or blades that lock in place—are similar to Swiss Army-style pocket knives or wine openers with small blades.

The change is intended to streamline security by reducing “the time spent rescreening and searching bags for these prohibited items,” TSA spokesman David Castelveter said.

The TSA said that, on average, passengers leave about 850 pounds a month of prohibited items at a typical large airport, with knives accounting for half that weight.

Flight-attendants unions blasted the move, saying that it will make TSA agents’ jobs easier while endangering attendants.

“This is a step back in time by allowing weapons on-board aircraft,” said Veda Shook, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. In addition to being a potential weapon for terrorists, she said, “if someone gets inebriated on board, then these knives can be wielded as a weapon.”

Ms. Shook also said the change could add more confusion to the airport-security screening process by encouraging some passengers to bring knives, even though not all are permitted.

Razor blades and box cutters, used to hijack planes during the Sept. 11 attacks, remain banned. Mr. Castelveter of the TSA said there is too much “emotion” associated with those items to remove them from the prohibited list.

Mr. Castelveter said fliers “are bringing [knives] today anyway and they’re being surrendered. Now they’ll be able to keep them.” He said the change is in line with the related standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization, which sets aviation-safety protocols that are followed around the world.

The move is part of the TSA’s strategy to shift toward a more targeted, risk-based approach to security, relying more on data and intelligence than on blanket bans. The TSA has recently introduced a pre-check program that allows select frequent fliers to go through faster, easier airport screenings.

The agency also now allows some children to leave their shoes on during screenings, and in recent years, the TSA removed cigarette lighters and nail clippers from the prohibited-items list.

On April 25, the TSA also will begin allowing fliers to carry ski poles, pool cues, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks, Wiffle Ball bats and up to two golf clubs through security checkpoints. The TSA will also allow bats that are shorter than two feet and lighter than 24 ounces, such as souvenir or novelty bats.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the TSA has required hardened cockpit doors, added federal air marshals to more flights and authorized some pilots to carry weapons.

Baltimore 7-year-old suspended for making ‘gun’ out of a pastry

NBC News | Mar 5, 2013

By M. Alex Johnson

A 7-year-old boy Baltimore boy was suspended from school after his teacher complained that the boy chewed a breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun, the boy’s father says.

In a note that was sent to parents Friday, Park Elementary School officials told parents only that “a student used food to make an inappropriate gesture,” WBFF-TV of Baltimore reported.

The boy, Josh Welch, a second-grader, told the station he was actually trying to shape a mountain, “but it didn’t look like a mountain really, and it turned out to be a gun, kinda.”

Josh’s father, B.J. Welch, called Josh’s two-day suspension “insanity.”

“With all the potential issues that could be dealt with at school —  real threats, bullies, whatever — the real issue is, it’s a pastry,” he told WBFF. “You know?”

Educators have been extra sensitive to representations of weapons in the wake of the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 children and six educators were killed.

In January, a 5-year-old girl was suspended for making a “terroristic threat” at a kindergarten in the Mount Carmel Area, Pa., School District for saying she was going to shoot classmates and herself with her pink “Hello Kitty” bubble gun.

NBC Philadelphia: Kindergartner suspended for pink bubble gun threat

“This is a good-natured little girl,” said Robin Ficker, an attorney for the girl, who hasn’t been identified because of privacy laws. “And this shows how hysterical people who work at schools have become since Sandy Hook.”

FBI stages another fake bombing with mentally disabled stooge-asset to maintain fear levels and bolster the illusion they are keeping us safe

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Bank of America at 303 Hegenberger Road in Oakland, CA Photo: Google Maps

An undercover FBI agent posing as a go-between with the Taliban in Afghanistan had been meeting with Llaneza since Nov. 30 and accompanied him to the bank, according to an FBI declaration filed in federal court. The declaration said the FBI had built the purported bomb, which was inert and posed no threat to the public.

sfgate.com | Feb 8, 2013

by Jaxon Van Derbeken and Bob Egelko

A mentally disturbed man who said he believed in violent jihad and hoped to start a civil war in the United States was arrested early Friday after trying to detonate what he thought was a car bomb at a Bank of America branch in Oakland, prosecutors said.

Matthew Aaron Llaneza, 28, of San Jose was taken into custody near the bank at 303 Hegenberger Road at 12:30 a.m. after pressing a cell phone trigger device that was supposed to set off the explosives inside a sport utility vehicle and bring down the four-story building, said U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag‘s office.

An undercover FBI agent posing as a go-between with the Taliban in Afghanistan had been meeting with Llaneza since Nov. 30 and accompanied him to the bank, according to an FBI declaration filed in federal court. The declaration said the FBI had built the purported bomb, which was inert and posed no threat to the public.
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Llaneza appeared before a federal magistrate in Oakland on Friday on a charge of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, which is punishable by life in prison. He is due to return to court for a bail hearing Wednesday. Assistant Federal Public Defender Joseph Matthews, who was assigned to represent him, declined to comment.

Court records and lawyers in a 2011 criminal case against Llaneza in San Jose described him as delusional and suicidal. He told police in that case that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. His attorney in the San Jose case said a judge had verified in two court hearings that Llaneza was getting mental health treatment.

Echoes of N.Y. case

His arrest came a day after a New York man, Quazi Nafis, pleaded guilty to attempting to detonate what he thought was a 1,000-pound bomb at the Federal Reserve Bank in Manhattan in October, in a case unrelated to Llaneza’s. The FBI said an undercover agent had provided Nafis with 20, 50-pound bags of fake explosives.

In Llaneza’s case, the FBI declaration said he told the supposed Taliban representative in their Nov. 30 meeting that he wanted the bank bombing to be blamed on anti-U.S. government militias. He said he supported the Taliban and believed in violent jihad, the agent said, and hoped the bombing would prompt a government crackdown, a right-wing response and, ultimately, civil war.

He chose the Bank of America branch because of its name and because Oakland has been a center of recent protests, the declaration said. It said Llaneza told the agent he would “dance with joy” when the bomb exploded.

Bank cooperation

Anne Pace, a spokeswoman for Bank of America, said the bank was “cooperating fully with law enforcement” and declined further comment.

Llaneza and the agent met several times in December and January, and the FBI, following Llaneza’s suggestion, rented a storage unit in Hayward, the declaration said.

On Thursday night, agents said, Llaneza drove an SUV from the storage unit, hauling a dozen 5-gallon buckets of chemicals, prepared by the FBI to look like explosives, to a parking lot in Union City, where he assembled the bomb in the agent’s presence.

He then drove to the bank, parked the SUV under an overhang near a support column of the building, retreated on foot to a safe distance, and pressed an FBI-constructed cell phone triggering device that was supposed to ignite the bomb, the FBI said. Agents them moved in and arrested him.

The FBI did not say how it first contacted Llaneza, but he had been subject to law enforcement monitoring since serving a jail sentence in the 2011 criminal case in San Jose involving assault weapons charges.

In April 2011, San Jose police were called to a trailer where Llaneza lived with his father, Steve, according to court records. Described as suicidal and combative, and shouting “Allahu akbar” – “God is great” – he was held for observation for 72 hours.

Two days later, his father told police he had found an AK-47 assault rifle and a 30-round extended ammunition clip in the trailer. Officers found two more 30-round clips and other items, including a military-style camouflage sniper suit.

Llaneza was not arrested immediately, but a judge ordered him into custody when he appeared in court in May 2011. He pleaded no contest five months later to transportation of an assault weapon and was sentenced to six years in jail, with all but one year suspended, after agreeing to seek mental treatment. With credit for good behavior, Llaneza was released on Nov. 30, 2011.

Santa Clara County prosecutors objected to the sentence, which they considered too light, said Deputy District Attorney Alaleh Kianerci. She said he got the jail term under California’s realignment law, which took effect in October 2011 and sends most low-level felons to county jail instead of state prison. Under the previous law, she said, prosecutors would have sought at least a four-year prison term.

“Obviously he was a threat to the community,” Kianerci said. “We couldn’t keep him in custody forever, so we are lucky law enforcement was monitoring him.”

She said Llaneza was hearing voices and was apparently suicidal when he was taken to a hospital.

Father’s concern

The prosecutor said Steve Llaneza told police that his son, a native of Arizona, had been living with his mother there, had been in the Marines before being kicked out, and was familiar with weapons. He had worked as a window washer in Arizona before losing his job in May 2010 and was taking medication for bipolar disorder.

The father told police he was concerned about his son, who had recently converted to Islam.

While the AK-47 and the clips were purchased legally in Arizona, bringing them into California is illegal. Matthew Llaneza told police he had bought the rifle to protect himself from people who were after him, and mentioned previous suicide attempts.

“Someday you are going to find me dead in the desert,” he told San Jose officers.

Treatment needs

Llaneza was a different, more stable person when he was in custody and on medication, said Cameron Bowman, his lawyer in the San Jose case. He said he verified that Llaneza had been in the Marines, but that his claims to have been an armorer and a sniper were “his own fantasies – he had a lot of fantasies.”

“When I met him, I thought he was a very troubled person, with clear mental problems,” Bowman said. “I think that the court was trying everything possible to get him into treatment, get him supervised by professionals. I saw him as somebody who is at least bipolar, probably schizophrenic, and not somebody who should be turned out to the streets.

“This new case shows he was not getting the mental health treatment he needed.”

Majoring in Minors: Turning Our Schools Into Totalitarian Enclaves

school_dees

huffingtonpost.com | Feb 2, 2013

by John W. Whitehead

Just as the 9/11 terrorist attacks created a watershed between the freedoms we enjoyed and our awareness of America’s vulnerability to attack, so the spate of school shootings over the past 10-plus years from Columbine to Newtown has drastically altered the way young people are perceived and treated, transforming them from innocent bystanders into both victims and culprits. Consequently, school officials, attempting to both protect and control young people, have adopted draconian zero-tolerance policies, stringent security measures and cutting-edge technologies that have all but transformed the schools into quasi-prisons.

In their zeal to make the schools safer, school officials have succumbed to a near-manic paranoia about anything even remotely connected to guns and violence, such that a child who brings a piece of paper loosely shaped like a gun to school is treated as harshly as the youngster who brings an actual gun. Yet by majoring in minors, as it were, treating all students as suspects and harshly punishing kids for innocent mistakes, the schools are setting themselves and us up for failure — not only by focusing on the wrong individuals and allowing true threats to go undetected but also by treating young people as if they have no rights, thereby laying the groundwork for future generations that are altogether ignorant of their rights as citizens and unprepared to defend them.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the increasingly harsh punishments and investigative tactics being doled out on young people for engaging in childish behavior or for daring to challenge the authority of school officials. Whereas in the past minor behavioral infractions at school such as shooting spitwads may have warranted a trip to the principal’s office, in-school detention or a phone call to one’s parents; today, they are elevated to the level of criminal behavior with all that implies. Consequently, young people are now being forcibly removed by police officers from the classroom, strip searched, arrested, handcuffed, transported in the back of police squad cars, and placed in police holding cells until their frantic parents can get them out. For those unlucky enough to be targeted for such punishment, the experience will stay with them long after they are allowed back at school. In fact, it will stay with them for the rest of their lives in the form of a criminal record.

Consider the case of Wilson Reyes, a seven-year-old elementary school student from the Bronx who got into a scuffle with a classmate over a $5 bill. In response to the incident, school officials called police, who arrested Reyes, transported him to the police station and allegedly handcuffed the child to a wall and interrogated him for ten hours about his behavior and the location of the money. His family is in the midst of pursuing a lawsuit against the police and the city for their egregious behavior.

A North Carolina public school allegedly strip-searched a 10-year-old boy in search of a $20 bill lost by another student, despite the fact that the boy, J.C., twice told school officials he did not have the missing money. The assistant principal, a woman, reportedly ordered the fifth grader to disrobe down to his underwear and subjected him to an aggressive strip-search that included rimming the edge of his underwear. The missing money was later found in the school cafeteria.

And in Chicago, a 15-year-old boy accused by an anonymous tipster of holding drugs was taken to a locker room by two security guards, a Chicago police officer, and a female assistant principal, and made to stand against a wall and drop his pants while one of the security guards inspected his genitals. No drugs were found.

That students as young as seven years old are being strip searched by school officials, over missing money no less, flies in the face of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2009 ruling in Safford Unified. Sch. Dist. v. Redding. Insisting that Arizona school officials violated the Fourth Amendment rights of a 13-year-old girl when they strip-searched her on the suspicion she was hiding ibuprofen in her underwear, the justices declared that educators cannot force children to remove their clothing unless student safety is at risk.

Precedent-setting or not, however, the Court’s ruling has done little to improve conditions for young people who are the unfortunate casualties in the schools’ so-called quest for “student safety.” Indeed, with each school shooting, the climate of intolerance for “unacceptable” behavior such as getting into food fights, playing tag, doodling, hugging, kicking, and throwing temper tantrums only intensifies. And as surveillance cameras, metal detectors, police patrols, zero tolerance policies, lock downs, drug sniffing dogs and strip searches become the norm in elementary, middle and high schools across the nation, the punishments being meted out for childish behavior grow harsher.

Even the most innocuous “infractions” are being shown no leniency, with school officials expelling a 6-year-old girl for bringing a clear plastic toy gun to school, issuing a disciplinary warning to a 5-year-old boy who brought a toy gun built out of LEGOs to class, and pulling out of school a fifth-grade girl who had a “paper” gun with her in class. The six-year-old kindergarten student in South Carolina was classified as such a threat that she’s not even allowed on school grounds. “She cannot even be in my vehicle when I go to pick up my other children,” said the girl’s mom, Angela McKinney.

Nine-year-old Patrick Timoney was sent to the principal’s office and threatened with suspension after school officials discovered that one of his LEGOs was holding a 2-inch toy gun. That particular LEGO, a policeman, was Patrick’s favorite because his father is a retired police officer. David Morales, an 8-year-old Rhode Island student, ran afoul of his school’s zero tolerance policies after he wore a hat to school decorated with an American flag and tiny plastic Army figures in honor of American troops. School officials declared the hat out of bounds because the toy soldiers were carrying miniature guns. A 7-year-old New Jersey boy, described by school officials as “a nice kid” and “a good student,” was reported to the police and charged with possessing an imitation firearm after he brought a toy Nerf-style gun to school. The gun shoots soft ping pong-type balls.

School officials are also exhibiting zero tolerance for the age-old game of cops and robbers, a playground game I played as a child. In a new wrinkle on this old game, however, it’s not the cop who gets the bad guy. Now, the game ends when school officials summon real cops who arrest the kindergartners for engaging in juvenile crime. That happened at a New Jersey school, from which four little boys were suspended for pretending their fingers were guns. Most recently, two children at two different schools in Maryland were suspended in the same month for separate incidents of pretending their fingers were guns. In another instance, officials at a California elementary school called police when a little boy was caught playing cops and robbers at recess. The principal told the child’s parents their child was a terrorist.

Unwittingly, the principal was right on target: These are acts of terrorism, however, the culprits are not overactive schoolchildren. Rather, those guilty of terrorizing young children and parents nationwide are school officials who — in an effort to enforce zero tolerance policies against violence, weapons and drugs — have moved our schools into a lockdown mentality.

Things have gotten so bad that it doesn’t even take a toy gun, pretend or otherwise, to raise the ire of school officials. A high school sophomore was suspended for violating the school’s no-cell-phone policy after he took a call from his father, a master sergeant in the U.S. Army who was serving in Iraq at the time. A 12-year-old New York student was hauled out of school in handcuffs for doodling on her desk with an erasable marker. In Houston, an 8th grader was suspended for wearing rosary beads to school in memory of her grandmother (the school has a zero tolerance policy against the rosary, which the school insists can be interpreted as a sign of gang involvement). And in Oklahoma, school officials suspended a first grader simply for using his hand to simulate a gun.

With the distinctions between student offenses erased, and all offenses expellable, we now find ourselves in the midst of what TIME magazine described as a “national crackdown on Alka-Seltzer.” Indeed, at least 20 children in four states have been suspended from school for possession of the fizzy tablets in violation of zero tolerance drug policies. In some jurisdictions, carrying cough drops, wearing black lipstick or dying your hair blue are actually expellable offenses.

Students have also been penalized for such inane “crimes” as bringing nail clippers to school, using Listerine or Scope, and carrying fold-out combs that resemble switchblades. A 9-year-old boy in Manassas, Va., who gave a Certs breath mint to a classmate, was actually suspended, while a 12-year-old boy who said he brought powdered sugar to school for a science project was charged with a felony for possessing a look-alike drug. Another 12-year-old was handcuffed and jailed after he stomped in a puddle, splashing classmates. After students at a Texas school were assigned to write a “scary” Halloween story, one 13-year-old chose to write about shooting up a school. Although he received a passing grade on the story, school officials reported him to the police, resulting in his spending six days in jail before it was determined that no crime had been committed.

These incidents, while appalling, are the byproducts of an age that values security over freedom, where police have relatively limitless powers to search individuals and homes by virtue of their badge, and where the Constitution is increasingly treated as a historic relic rather than a bulwark against government abuses. Where we go from here is anyone’s guess, but the future doesn’t look good from where I’m sitting — not for freedom as we know it, and certainly not for the young people being raised on a diet of abject compliance to police authority, intolerance for minor offenses, overt surveillance and outright totalitarianism.

Cops kicked out of Denny’s for having guns

Five plainclothes detectives were kicked out of a Denny’s restaurant for carrying their guns.

latimes.com | Jan 3, 2013

By Matt Pearce

Are you a cop? Do you carry a gun? Don’t go to the Denny’s in Belleville, Ill.

You are not allowed, the police chief says. Not after what happened Tuesday.

The flapjacks — sorry, the flap — began when several on-duty detectives with the Belleville Police Department dropped in to Denny’s for some on-duty noshing, according to local media.

They had their badges and their guns, but as detectives, not their uniforms, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. This bothered a patron who then complained to a manager, David Rice, who then complained to one of the detectives: Please take your gun to your car or leave. No guns allowed.

“Upon further discussion, we became aware the individual was a plain-clothed police officer,” Denny’s spokeswoman Liz DiTrapano said in a statement, according to the News-Democrat. “Denny’s policy permits law enforcement officials to carry their firearms in the restaurant, and we regret any misunderstanding.”

Denny’s sure does, because despite the efforts of a general manager who tried (and failed) to clear up the misunderstanding before the detectives left, the department’s chief banned on-duty and off-duty police in uniform from returning to the restaurant.

“This was an insult, a slap in the face, to those detectives and to all of the men and women who proudly wear the uniform or badge and serve in law enforcement,” Police Chief William Clay said, according to the News-Democrat.

“This individual [Rice] was the manager of Denny’s. He therefore speaks for Denny’s, in my mind. This policy effectively prohibits on-duty sworn police officers from dining in a Denny’s Restaurant, but allows ‘registered sex offenders,’ ‘felons’ and or ‘pedophiles’ to enjoy a dining experience in Denny’s.”

Mayan Apocalypse: ‘a fairly unremarkable day on planet Earth’

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A Mayan priest sits atop a pyramid as video game developer and former space tourist Richard Garriott addresses guests at his “End of the World Soiree” dress rehearsal in Austin, Texas Photo: REUTERS/Erich Schlegel

Across the globe there was relief that the apocalypse had failed to materialise and doomsayers, some of whom had partied like it was their last night on Earth, were left scratching their heads.

Telegraph | Dec 21, 2012

By Nick Allen, Henry Samuel in Bugarach

The dark planet Nibiru failed to knock Earth out of the sky and the promised solar storm never raged. The world is safe and we can breathe again.

The end of the 5,125-year Mayan Long Calendar had triggered predictions of a catastrophic end for mankind, but according to the US Geological Survey it was a “fairly unremarkable day on planet Earth.” There had been about 120 small earthquakes, including a moderate one in Japan, which was “very much a normal day.”

As dawn broke over the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in Mexico, thousands of mystics, hippies, druids and pagans celebrated with crystal skulls, ceremonial fires, drums beating and conches blaring when the sun came up.

Genaro Hernandez, 55, an accountant wearing all white and an expression of bliss, said: “This world is being reborn as a better world.”

Mayan Apocalypse: as it didn’t happen

“We are in a frequency of love, we are in a new vibration,” added Ivan Gutierrez, 37, an artist, before a security guard ordered him to stop sounding his conch because he did not have a permit.

In Moscow 1,000 people who had packed into Josef Stalin’s bunker were able to go back home after Armageddon was averted.

Chinese authorities dismissed outright rumours that Jesus had reappeared as a woman somewhere in the middle of the country, and also denied that they had built an “ark” as a contingency plan.

At Pic de Bugarach, the French mountain some had believed to be a place of salvation, the sun came out from behind the clouds and a flock of birds flew past as the official end of the world struck after 11am GMT.

The mountain had been identified as an “alien garage” from where a vast intergalactic flying saucer would emerge to rescue nearby humans.

But the only paranormal activity to be seen was two spacemen in amateur-looking aluminium foil suits, and three green-faced ladies with antennae, ambling down the street.

The spacemen, Frédéric, 28, an unemployed waiter from Marseille and his brother Laurent, 35, said they had dodged gendarmes and spent the night in a cave to get to the mountain, from where they had hoped to be whisked away by an “interdimensional vortex.”

Will Hartley, 26, a photographer from London who also reached the summit at sunrise, reported seeing no UFOs.

Georges Tricoire, 72, a retired local construction worker, smiling from beneath his red beret, said: “For the past 50 years I have wandered over every single inch of that mountain, I know every rock, nook and cranny and everything that has been said about Le Pic de Bugarach is nothing but rubbish.

“Whoever started this rumour three years ago is a liar and all those who have followed him ever since are crooks.”

There had been confusion over the exact timing of the apocalypse, with some suggesting it would take place shortly after 11am, the time of the winter solstice, and others believing it would be at dawn in the Mayan heartland.

But as time zone after time zone reported nothing amiss it became clear that that Earth had been spared.

Modern Mayans, of whom there are six million, had repeatedly said the end of their calendar only meant the ushering in of a new era, not the end of the world. They were able to say “We told you so.”

However, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History issued a warning. It suggested calculations to synchronise the Mayan and Western calendars may be off a few days, which would mean the calendar actually ends on Sunday.

TSA Apologizes To Wheel-chair-bound 11-Year-Old Girl Detained At Airport

cbslocal.com | Dec 17, 2012

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The TSA has apologized to an 11-year-old girl who was detained for nearly an hour last week at DFW International Airport after agents said they found explosive residue on her hands.

TSA’s disabled child detainee: ‘I Still Feel Traumatized!’

The girl, Shelbi Walser, suffers from a bone disorder and uses a wheelchair to get around. She and her mother were traveling to Florida for medical treatment when the incident occurred.

TSA Humiliate Child In Wheelchair

The TSA released the following statement to KRLD.

   “We regret that the experience of this young lady was not a positive one as we always strive to screen passengers with dignity and respect while ensuring the safety of all travelers. Everything TSA does is designed to protect against another terrorist attack. In all likelihood, this traveler would have presented no risk, yet we could take no chances. She alarmed for explosive residue and TSA took the necessary steps to resolve the alarm.”

Walser’s mother, Tammy Daniels, said that TSA agent never used common sense when they pulled her daughter to the side and called in a bomb expert. The two were released after experts found nothing hazardous.

Connecticut school shooting: two US Senators call for assault weapons ban

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Senators Mark Warner (Lt) and Joe Manchin Photo: GETTY IMAGES/AP

Two US Senators became the first of America’s pro-gun advocates to break ranks on Monday night as they called for a ban on assault weapons in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school shootings.

telegraph.co.uk | Dec 17, 2012

By Peter Foster, Washington

The two Senators – both Democrats but with “A” ratings and previous endorsements from the powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby group – both spoke out to argue publicly that the death of 20 Year 2 children was a “game-changing” moment for America’s divisive gun debate.

“Never before have we seen our babies slaughtered. It’s never happened in America that I can recall, seeing this carnage,” said Senator Joe Manchin, who in 2010 released a political advert touting his NRA endorsement and showing him with a hunting rifle ‘taking aim’ at a piece of climate change legislation.

“Anybody that’s a proud gun owner, a proud member of the NRA, they’re also proud parents, they’re proud grandparents. They understand this has changed where we go from here,” the West Virginia senator said on MSNBC.

Those thoughts were later echoed by Mark Warner, a senator for the rural, gun-loving state of Virginia, who has said gun control could no longer be a subject for partisan feuding between Republicans and Democrats.

“I believe every American has Second Amendment rights, the ability to hunt is part of our culture. I’ve had a NRA (National Rifle Association) rating of an “A” but, you know, enough is enough,” Mr Warner said on CBS News

“It is time for this kind of senseless violence to end. There won’t be one perfect law to stop a crazy person from doing evil things. But when we have close to 30,000 killings a year from all types of gun violence, even if we save a few lives, we make progress.”

The remarks could put pressure on both the NRA and Republican pro-gun legislators to accept the need for tighter gun controls, particularly on assault rifles.

But in a sign of the political difficulties that lie ahead, since the Sandy Hook shootings last Friday both the NRA and all pro-gun Republican senators and congressman have remained silent.

The NBS’s influential “Meet the Press” program said it had contacted 31 pro-gun senators last weekend, but all had declined to appear.

But as the popular outrage continues to build, advocates of tighter gun control continued yesterday moved to seize the initiative on what is being viewed as the best opportunity for more than a decade to force through tougher gun laws.

That pressure continued to build on Mr Obama who promised the bereaved parents of Newtown he would use “whatever power this office holds” to prevent a repeat of more tragedies like Sandy Hook, although without directly specifying new legislation on gun control.

Jay Carney, the White House spokesman refused to be drawn on specific measures at a briefing yesterday, but said that Mr Obama would be “moving forward” to address what he described as a “complex problem that will require a complex solution” of which gun controls formed only one part.

Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York and fierce advocate of gun control, continued urge Mr Obama to take concrete action, staging an event in New York with gun-crime victims whose moving testimonies, he said, would be sent to every member of the new Congress that opens in January.

“If this moment passes from memory without action from Washington, it will be a stain up on our nations’ commitment to protect the innocent, including our children,” he said, calling for an immediate assault weapon ban and the enforcement of existing background checking laws.

He accused Congress of putting “partisan politics” above saving lives, point out the “outrage” that the only significant piece of gun legislation passed by Congress in almost 20 years was a bill to indemnify gun manufacturers from being sued by the victims of gun crime.

Public anger over the killings was also expressed on the White House website where a petition demanding the Obama administration act against the gun lobby had attracted more than 140,000 signatures.

“Powerful lobbying groups allow the ownership of guns to reach beyond the Constitution’s intended purpose of the right to bear arms,” the petition argued, “Therefore, Congress must act on what is stated law, and face the reality that access to firearms reaches beyond what the Second Amendment intends to achieve.”

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll which was conducted after the Newtown killings also suggested public support for legislation was slowly growing, with some 54 per cent of Americans in “favour stricter gun control laws” compared with 43 per cent who do not.

The number in favour of new controls represented a 3 per cent increase from the last time the survey was taken in May this year, but it still falls well short of the consistent 63-67pc support for tougher controls that persisted through the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Related Information

Assault Rifles Are Not Heavily Used in Crimes

Looking at the broader picture of all gun use in crime, it becomes clear that “assault weapons” are a minor part of the problem. Police gun seizure data from around the nation finds that “assault weapons” account for less than 2% of guns seized by the police; more typically, they account for less than 1%

Connecticut school shooting: Barack Obama backs ban on assault weapons

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Barack Obama threw his political weight behind the campaign to reinstate a ban on assault weapons in a move that would be the most significant tightening of US gun laws in almost two decades.

telegraph.co.uk | Dec 18, 2012

By Peter Foster, Washington

Mr Obama’s decision to publicly support new legislation being proposed by a senior Democrat senator came two days after he called for unspecified “change” at a memorial service for the 20 child victims of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, USA.

The White House spokesman, Jay Carney, said the president was “actively supportive” of the legislation being proposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein that would ban weapons like the Bushmaster .223 that coroners said had claimed the majority of the young victims’ lives.

He added that Mr Obama would also support addressing the problem of the so-called “gun show loophole”, which enables buyers at gun shows to avoid background-checks, as well as curbs on ammunition clips larger than 10 rounds.

“He is actively supportive of, for example, Senator Feinstein’s stated intent to revive a piece of legislation that would reinstate the assault weapons ban,” Mr Carney said, “He supports – and would support legislation that addresses the problem of the so-called gun show loophole.” Mr Obama was also said to be “heartened” that three staunchly pro-gun Democrat senators with A-ratings from the powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby – Harry Reid, Joe Manchin and Mark Warner – had come out in support of an assault weapon ban.

The news that Mr Obama was unequivocally supporting the reinstatement of Bill Clinton’s 1994 assault weapons – which was allowed to lapse in 2004 – is a major political boost for advocates of stricter gun control, but it does not guarantee the measure will pass Republican-controlled of Congress.

The Republican party is heavily influenced by the powerful National Rifle Association and garners much of its base support in southern states and rural areas that are traditional staunchly pro-gun.

The NRA has remained silent since the Sandy Hook shootings, refusing all media requests for comment and suspending its social media operations, but in a sign of the fight that lies ahead yesterday indicated that it was preparing to “push back” against any new controls.

“If we’re going to talk about the Second Amendment, then let’s also talk about Hollywood, and the video games that teach young kids how to shoot heads,” a source close to the NRA told Fox News, “If you really want to stop incidents like this, passing one more law is not going to do a damn thing. Columbine happened when? In 1999. Smack in the middle of the original assault-weapons ban.” The preparations for an aggressive pushback come as Congressional Republicans began showing some signs of accepting the need for action after Newtown, in the light of growing public anger.

That public mood was reflected in a new poll for CBS News released yesterday that found support for stricter laws at 57 per cent, a ten-year high.

After a weekly closed-door meeting, it was reported that several republican Congressmen were open, at least, to a debate on the gun issue, so long as it was comprehensive, taking in mental health policies and other social phenomena.

“Put guns on the table, also put video games on the table, put mental health on the table,” said Jack Kingston, a 10-term Republican congressman for the pro-gun southern state of Georgia who has a long history of endorsements from the NRA.

In one move that was also viewed as significant, Charles Grassley, the Republican senator for Iowa and senior republican on the Judiciary Committee that would probably be the starting point for any new legislation, suggested that a blue ribbon commission of “all stakeholders” be convened.

Some Republican analysts have warned that the party cannot afford to be pigeonholed as dogmatic on the gun issue, if it wants to broaden its electoral appeal following November’s election defeat to Mr Obama’s more progressive, liberal coalition.

Joe Scarborough, a former Florida Republican congressman and prominent cable news host, said the party would ‘lose’ if it did not heed the public’s increasingly angry public mood that has seen a petition on the White House website attract a record 180,000 signatures.

“Do they want to be seen as the party of Glocks? The party of Bushmasters? The party of combat-style, military weapons? Rapid-fire magazine clips?” he asked, “If they want to go around and debate that for the next four years, good luck.”

Families of the victims and survivors of recent gun massacres yesterday gathered for a rally in front of Congress demanding new gun laws, in a bid to keep pressure on Republicans and not allow the anger to fade, as it has following other recent mass-shootings.

Among them was Andri Nikitctyuk [CORR], whose own son survived the Newtown massacre only after a teacher pulled him out of the hallway and into a classroom. “If we could rewind the reality and prevent what happened I would give anything to do it,” he said.

He was joined by the parents of victims of the cinema massacre in Aurora, Colorado, earlier this year as well as families of those who died at Virginia Tech in 2007 and Columbine in 1999. The rally was organised by the Brady Campaign, the pro-gun control group named after Ronald Reagan’s press secretary who was shot during a 1981 assassination attempt.

To make flying as dangerous as driving, a 9/11 event would have to occur every month, or How the TSA Kills People


A U.S. Transportation Security Administration employee passes a metal-detecting wand over a traveler’s chest at O’Hare International Airport. Photograph by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Airport Security Is Killing Us

businessweek.com | Nov 18, 2012

by Charles Kenny

This week marks the beginning of the busiest travel time of the year. For millions of Americans, the misery of holiday travel is made considerably worse by a government agency ostensibly designed to make our journeys more secure. Created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Transportation Security Administration has largely outlived its usefulness, as the threat of a terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland continues to recede. These days, the TSA’s major role appears to be to make plane trips more unpleasant. And by doing so, it’s encouraging people to take the considerably more dangerous option of traveling by road.

The attention paid to terrorism in the U.S. is considerably out of proportion to the relative threat it presents. That’s especially true when it comes to Islamic-extremist terror. Of the 150,000 murders in the U.S. between 9/11 and the end of 2010, Islamic extremism accounted for fewer than three dozen. Since 2000, the chance that a resident of the U.S. would die in a terrorist attack was one in 3.5 million, according to John Mueller and Mark Stewart of Ohio State and the University of Newcastle, respectively. In fact, extremist Islamic terrorism resulted in just 200 to 400 deaths worldwide outside the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq—the same number, Mueller noted in a 2011 report (PDF), as die in bathtubs in the U.S. alone each year.

Yet the TSA still commands a budget of nearly $8 billion—which is why the agency is left with too many officers and not enough to do. The TSA’s “Top Good Catches of 2011,” reported on its blog, did include 1,200 firearms and—their top find—a single batch of C4 explosives (though those were discovered only on the return flight). A longer list of TSA’s confiscations would include a G.I. Joe action doll’s 4-inch plastic rifle (“it’s a replica”) and a light saber. And needless to say, the TSA didn’t spot a single terrorist trying to board an airline in the U.S., notes Bruce Schneier.

How TSA Kills People

Flying and Driving after the September 11 Attacks

Business Week On TSA: Airport “Security” Is Making Americans Less Safe

According to one estimate of direct and indirect costs borne by the U.S. as a result of 9/11, the New York Times suggested the attacks themselves caused $55 billion in “toll and physical damage,” while the economic impact was $123 billion. But costs related to increased homeland security and counterterrorism spending, as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, totaled $3,105 billion. Mueller and Stewart estimate that government spending on homeland security over the 2002-11 period accounted for around $580 billion of that total.

The researchers quote Rand Corp. President James Thomson, who noted most of that expenditure was implemented “with little or no evaluation.” In 2010, the National Academy of Science reported the lack of “any Department of Homeland Security risk analysis capabilities and methods that are yet adequate for supporting [department] decision making.” In short, DHS (and the TSA in particular) is firing huge bundles of large denomination bills completely blindly.

There is lethal collateral damage associated with all this spending on airline security—namely, the inconvenience of air travel is pushing more people onto the roads. Compare the dangers of air travel to those of driving. To make flying as dangerous as using a car, a four-plane disaster on the scale of 9/11 would have to occur every month, according to analysis published in the American Scientist. Researchers at Cornell University suggest that people switching from air to road transportation in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks led to an increase of 242 driving fatalities per month—which means that a lot more people died on the roads as an indirect result of 9/11 than died from being on the planes that terrible day. They also suggest that enhanced domestic baggage screening alone reduced passenger volume by about 5 percent in the five years after 9/11, and the substitution of driving for flying by those seeking to avoid security hassles over that period resulted in more than 100 road fatalities.

That’s not to say TSA employees bear responsibility for making the roads more dangerous—they’re just following incentives that reward slavish attention to overbearing and ambiguous rules over common sense. And don’t blame the officials of Homeland Security, either. They’re merely avoiding the far greater backlash associated with doing nothing than with doing something—even if nothing is probably the right course in a lot of cases. Instead, the blame lies somewhere among the politicians, the media, and the electorate, who will happily skewer officials over a single fatal plane incident while ignoring car crashes, gun homicides, and even bathtub accidents, which kill far more Americans than terrorism does.

If Americans really care about saving lives this Thanksgiving travel season, for goodness’ sake, don’t beef up airport security any further. Slashing the TSA will ensure that more people live to spend future holidays with loved ones.