Micro-news for CT 4601, Altadena, CA

An Actual Nigerian Scam in 2009

posted by Jeremiah 7/11/2009 11:07:00 AM

The message below happened to make it through my spam filter this morning. Hard to believe that the venerable Nigerian Scam is still circulating in almost original form. You'd think they'd change up the country at least.

Here is a hilarious description of how one scambaiter gets over on this kind of scammer (some scambaiter pranks aren't but this one is family friendly):

And here is a good Salon.com article on I crave your distinguished indulgence (and all your cash) by Douglas Cruickshank

Date: Sat, 11 Jul 2009 10:00:29 -0500
Subject: can i confide in you

Dear Friend

I am John Enoh Ewan the Chairman House of Committee on Finance, National Assembly Chambers of Federal Republic of Nigeria I write to honorably request your assistance in helping to receive amount of money into your account for safe keeping and for future investment in your country.

By virtue of my position as the chief supervisor of foreign contracts, the sum of US$25,000,000.00 (Twenty Five Million United States Dollars) is available in escrow account that I intend to transfer overseas through your assistance as a foreign partner.

This money is as a result of Over provision in the Federal government budget for unpaid contract amount to foreign contractors who executed contract in the Niger - Delta in Petroleum industry.

As soon as the contract amount is paid to you, I will share with you 40% and 60% for me, my share you will help me to invest in any profitable and lucrative business in your country or any other country that you will so

You can reach me by return mail, including
(1) Your full names and Age
(2) Your contact address and country of Origin
(3) Your company's name (if any) Your Position /Occupation
(4) Your confidential telephone (cell) and fax number

The above information will enable me brief you more details of the transaction and also start the application process/documentation that will lead to the release of the funds to you through bank to bank transfer. While waiting for your quick response I remain your potential investment

Best Regards,

Honorable John Enoh

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Prohibition has failed

posted by Jeremiah 5/03/2009 01:00:00 PM

Another strong argument for repeal of prohibition, this time being made by The Economist:


Failed states and failed policies
How to stop the drug wars

Mar 5th 2009
From The Economist print edition

Prohibition has failed; legalisation is the least bad solution

A HUNDRED years ago a group of foreign diplomats gathered in Shanghai for the first-ever international effort to ban trade in a narcotic drug. On February 26th 1909 they agreed to set up the International Opium Commission—just a few decades after Britain had fought a war with China to assert its right to peddle the stuff. Many other bans of mood-altering drugs have followed. In 1998 the UN General Assembly committed member countries to achieving a “drug-free world” and to “eliminating or significantly reducing” the production of opium, cocaine and cannabis by 2008.

That is the kind of promise politicians love to make. It assuages the sense of moral panic that has been the handmaiden of prohibition for a century. It is intended to reassure the parents of teenagers across the world. Yet it is a hugely irresponsible promise, because it cannot be fulfilled.

Next week ministers from around the world gather in Vienna to set international drug policy for the next decade. Like first-world-war generals, many will claim that all that is needed is more of the same. In fact the war on drugs has been a disaster, creating failed states in the developing world even as addiction has flourished in the rich world. By any sensible measure, this 100-year struggle has been illiberal, murderous and pointless. That is why The Economist continues to believe that the least bad policy is to legalise drugs.

“Least bad” does not mean good. Legalisation, though clearly better for producer countries, would bring (different) risks to consumer countries. As we outline below, many vulnerable drug-takers would suffer. But in our view, more would gain.

The evidence of failure

Nowadays the UN Office on Drugs and Crime no longer talks about a drug-free world. Its boast is that the drug market has “stabilised”, meaning that more than 200m people, or almost 5% of the world’s adult population, still take illegal drugs—roughly the same proportion as a decade ago. (Like most purported drug facts, this one is just an educated guess: evidential rigour is another casualty of illegality.) The production of cocaine and opium is probably about the same as it was a decade ago; that of cannabis is higher. Consumption of cocaine has declined gradually in the United States from its peak in the early 1980s, but the path is uneven (it remains higher than in the mid-1990s), and it is rising in many places, including Europe.

This is not for want of effort. The United States alone spends some $40 billion each year on trying to eliminate the supply of drugs. It arrests 1.5m of its citizens each year for drug offences, locking up half a million of them; tougher drug laws are the main reason why one in five black American men spend some time behind bars. In the developing world blood is being shed at an astonishing rate. In Mexico more than 800 policemen and soldiers have been killed since December 2006 (and the annual overall death toll is running at over 6,000). This week yet another leader of a troubled drug-ridden country—Guinea Bissau—was assassinated.

Yet prohibition itself vitiates the efforts of the drug warriors. The price of an illegal substance is determined more by the cost of distribution than of production. Take cocaine: the mark-up between coca field and consumer is more than a hundredfold. Even if dumping weedkiller on the crops of peasant farmers quadruples the local price of coca leaves, this tends to have little impact on the street price, which is set mainly by the risk of getting cocaine into Europe or the United States.

Nowadays the drug warriors claim to seize close to half of all the cocaine that is produced. The street price in the United States does seem to have risen, and the purity seems to have fallen, over the past year. But it is not clear that drug demand drops when prices rise. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that the drug business quickly adapts to market disruption. At best, effective repression merely forces it to shift production sites. Thus opium has moved from Turkey and Thailand to Myanmar and southern Afghanistan, where it undermines the West’s efforts to defeat the Taliban.

Al Capone, but on a global scale

Indeed, far from reducing crime, prohibition has fostered gangsterism on a scale that the world has never seen before. According to the UN’s perhaps inflated estimate, the illegal drug industry is worth some $320 billion a year. In the West it makes criminals of otherwise law-abiding citizens (the current American president could easily have ended up in prison for his youthful experiments with “blow”). It also makes drugs more dangerous: addicts buy heavily adulterated cocaine and heroin; many use dirty needles to inject themselves, spreading HIV; the wretches who succumb to “crack” or “meth” are outside the law, with only their pushers to “treat” them. But it is countries in the emerging world that pay most of the price. Even a relatively developed democracy such as Mexico now finds itself in a life-or-death struggle against gangsters. American officials, including a former drug tsar, have publicly worried about having a “narco state” as their neighbour.

The failure of the drug war has led a few of its braver generals, especially from Europe and Latin America, to suggest shifting the focus from locking up people to public health and “harm reduction” (such as encouraging addicts to use clean needles). This approach would put more emphasis on public education and the treatment of addicts, and less on the harassment of peasants who grow coca and the punishment of consumers of “soft” drugs for personal use. That would be a step in the right direction. But it is unlikely to be adequately funded, and it does nothing to take organised crime out of the picture.

Legalisation would not only drive away the gangsters; it would transform drugs from a law-and-order problem into a public-health problem, which is how they ought to be treated. Governments would tax and regulate the drug trade, and use the funds raised (and the billions saved on law-enforcement) to educate the public about the risks of drug-taking and to treat addiction. The sale of drugs to minors should remain banned. Different drugs would command different levels of taxation and regulation. This system would be fiddly and imperfect, requiring constant monitoring and hard-to-measure trade-offs. Post-tax prices should be set at a level that would strike a balance between damping down use on the one hand, and discouraging a black market and the desperate acts of theft and prostitution to which addicts now resort to feed their habits.

Selling even this flawed system to people in producer countries, where organised crime is the central political issue, is fairly easy. The tough part comes in the consumer countries, where addiction is the main political battle. Plenty of American parents might accept that legalisation would be the right answer for the people of Latin America, Asia and Africa; they might even see its usefulness in the fight against terrorism. But their immediate fear would be for their own children.

That fear is based in large part on the presumption that more people would take drugs under a legal regime. That presumption may be wrong. There is no correlation between the harshness of drug laws and the incidence of drug-taking: citizens living under tough regimes (notably America but also Britain) take more drugs, not fewer. Embarrassed drug warriors blame this on alleged cultural differences, but even in fairly similar countries tough rules make little difference to the number of addicts: harsh Sweden and more liberal Norway have precisely the same addiction rates. Legalisation might reduce both supply (pushers by definition push) and demand (part of that dangerous thrill would go). Nobody knows for certain. But it is hard to argue that sales of any product that is made cheaper, safer and more widely available would fall. Any honest proponent of legalisation would be wise to assume that drug-taking as a whole would rise.

There are two main reasons for arguing that prohibition should be scrapped all the same. The first is one of liberal principle. Although some illegal drugs are extremely dangerous to some people, most are not especially harmful. (Tobacco is more addictive than virtually all of them.) Most consumers of illegal drugs, including cocaine and even heroin, take them only occasionally. They do so because they derive enjoyment from them (as they do from whisky or a Marlboro Light). It is not the state’s job to stop them from doing so.

What about addiction? That is partly covered by this first argument, as the harm involved is primarily visited upon the user. But addiction can also inflict misery on the families and especially the children of any addict, and involves wider social costs. That is why discouraging and treating addiction should be the priority for drug policy. Hence the second argument: legalisation offers the opportunity to deal with addiction properly.

By providing honest information about the health risks of different drugs, and pricing them accordingly, governments could steer consumers towards the least harmful ones. Prohibition has failed to prevent the proliferation of designer drugs, dreamed up in laboratories. Legalisation might encourage legitimate drug companies to try to improve the stuff that people take. The resources gained from tax and saved on repression would allow governments to guarantee treatment to addicts—a way of making legalisation more politically palatable. The success of developed countries in stopping people smoking tobacco, which is similarly subject to tax and regulation, provides grounds for hope.

A calculated gamble, or another century of failure?

This newspaper first argued for legalisation 20 years ago (see article). Reviewing the evidence again (see article), prohibition seems even more harmful, especially for the poor and weak of the world. Legalisation would not drive gangsters completely out of drugs; as with alcohol and cigarettes, there would be taxes to avoid and rules to subvert. Nor would it automatically cure failed states like Afghanistan. Our solution is a messy one; but a century of manifest failure argues for trying it.


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Decriminalization does not result in increased drug use

posted by Jeremiah 4/26/2009 01:58:00 PM

This article in Time Magazine about the repeal of prohibition in Portugal, which in 2001 became the first European country to officially abolish all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs, supports the idea that the repeal of prohibition is the solution to the violent crime issue in the US and Mexico which has been in the media lately.

The illegal drug trade is obviously a revenue source for criminals around the world. Decriminalizing production would move that revenue into the legitimate tax base. While it seems likely that the crops and finished products command artificially high prices, due to the added risk and expense involved in the supply chain, if prohibition were repealed in a significant global way, it would still provide profitable alternative crops for farmers, even if prices dropped.


Drugs in Portugal: Did Decriminalization Work?
By Maia Szalavitz Sunday, Apr. 26, 2009

Pop quiz: Which European country has the most liberal drug laws? (Hint: It's not the Netherlands.)

Although its capital is notorious among stoners and college kids for marijuana haze–filled "coffee shops," Holland has never actually legalized cannabis — the Dutch simply don't enforce their laws against the shops. The correct answer is Portugal, which in 2001 became the first European country to officially abolish all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

At the recommendation of a national commission charged with addressing Portugal's drug problem, jail time was replaced with the offer of therapy. The argument was that the fear of prison drives addicts underground and that incarceration is more expensive than treatment — so why not give drug addicts health services instead? Under Portugal's new regime, people found guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs are sent to a panel consisting of a psychologist, social worker and legal adviser for appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail.

The question is, does the new policy work? At the time, critics in the poor, socially conservative and largely Catholic nation said decriminalizing drug possession would open the country to "drug tourists" and exacerbate Portugal's drug problem; the country had some of the highest levels of hard-drug use in Europe. But the recently released results of a report commissioned by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, suggest otherwise.

The paper, published by Cato in April, found that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.

"Judging by every metric, decriminalization in Portugal has been a resounding success," says Glenn Greenwald, an attorney, author and fluent Portuguese speaker, who conducted the research. "It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country does."

Compared to the European Union and the U.S., Portugal's drug use numbers are impressive. Following decriminalization, Portugal had the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the E.U.: 10%. The most comparable figure in America is in people over 12: 39.8%. Proportionally, more Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have used marijuana.

The Cato paper reports that between 2001 and 2006 in Portugal, rates of lifetime use of any illegal drug among seventh through ninth graders fell from 14.1% to 10.6%; drug use in older teens also declined. Lifetime heroin use among 16-to-18-year-olds fell from 2.5% to 1.8% (although there was a slight increase in marijuana use in that age group). New HIV infections in drug users fell by 17% between 1999 and 2003, and deaths related to heroin and similar drugs were cut by more than half. In addition, the number of people on methadone and buprenorphine treatment for drug addiction rose to 14,877 from 6,040, after decriminalization, and money saved on enforcement allowed for increased funding of drug-free treatment as well.

Portugal's case study is of some interest to lawmakers in the U.S., confronted now with the violent overflow of escalating drug gang wars in Mexico. The U.S. has long championed a hard-line drug policy, supporting only international agreements that enforce drug prohibition and imposing on its citizens some of the world's harshest penalties for drug possession and sales. Yet America has the highest rates of cocaine and marijuana use in the world, and while most of the E.U. (including Holland) has more liberal drug laws than the U.S., it also has less drug use.

"I think we can learn that we should stop being reflexively opposed when someone else does [decriminalize] and should take seriously the possibility that anti-user enforcement isn't having much influence on our drug consumption," says Mark Kleiman, author of the forthcoming When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment and director of the drug policy analysis program at UCLA. Kleiman does not consider Portugal a realistic model for the U.S., however, because of differences in size and culture between the two countries.

But there is a movement afoot in the U.S., in the legislatures of New York State, California and Massachusetts, to reconsider our overly punitive drug laws. Recently, Senators Jim Webb and Arlen Specter proposed that Congress create a national commission, not unlike Portugal's, to deal with prison reform and overhaul drug-sentencing policy. As Webb noted, the U.S. is home to 5% of the global population but 25% of its prisoners.

At the Cato Institute in early April, Greenwald contended that a major problem with most American drug policy debate is that it's based on "speculation and fear mongering," rather than empirical evidence on the effects of more lenient drug policies. In Portugal, the effect was to neutralize what had become the country's number one public health problem, he says.

"The impact in the life of families and our society is much lower than it was before decriminalization," says Joao Castel-Branco Goulao, Portugual's "drug czar" and president of the Institute on Drugs and Drug Addiction, adding that police are now able to re-focus on tracking much higher level dealers and larger quantities of drugs.

Peter Reuter, a professor of criminology and public policy at the University of Maryland, like Kleiman, is skeptical. He conceded in a presentation at the Cato Institute that "it's fair to say that decriminalization in Portugal has met its central goal. Drug use did not rise." However, he notes that Portugal is a small country and that the cyclical nature of drug epidemics — which tends to occur no matter what policies are in place — may account for the declines in heroin use and deaths.

The Cato report's author, Greenwald, hews to the first point: that the data shows that decriminalization does not result in increased drug use. Since that is what concerns the public and policymakers most about decriminalization, he says, "that is the central concession that will transform the debate."


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PSN: On Rampant PC

posted by Jeremiah 4/24/2009 10:36:00 AM

After a recent editorial in PSN that was a typical uninformed anti-gun propaganda piece, I was surprised to see this article on page A22 today.


By Glenn Garvin: Why can't students say `guns' in school?

Posted: 04/23/2009 04:23:20 PM PDT

Media snicker of the day: those crazy gun nuts, worried the government is out to snatch their constitutional rights along with their AK-47s. "60 Minutes" is the latest to have a chuckle, playing a commercial for a Washington, D.C.-area firearms show that urges viewers to "Celebrate the Second Amendment and get your guns while you still can!"

My own hunch is the sheer number of Americans who own guns (the low estimate is something over 40 million) will keep their Second Amendment rights off the endangered-species list for the foreseeable future. Their First Amendment rights, however, may be another matter. Those are taking a beating these days, right in the place that's supposed to be America's rowdiest free-speech zone: college campuses.

A student who speaks up about the right to own or carry a gun stands a good chance of getting suspended or even arrested:

When a Central Connecticut State University senior fulfilled a communications-class assignment by giving a presentation on why students and professors should be allowed to carry concealed weapons on campus, his professor reported him to the police, who called him in for questioning. Professor Paula Anderson, questioned by a reporter from the school paper, was unrepentant: The student was a "perceived risk" and she had a "responsibility to protect the well-being of our students."

Like old Soviet commissars clapping dissidents into psychiatric hospitals, administrators at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., responded to a student's e-mail criticizing school policy on concealed weapons by suspending him and ordering him to undergo a "mental health examination."

Trying to recruit new members, the Young Conservatives of Texas club at Lone Star College near Houston passed out fliers lampooning gun-safety manuals. ("No matter how responsible he seems, never give your gun to a monkey.") Administrators confiscated the fliers, threatened to disband the club and - when the worried students sought legal counsel - wrote their lawyers that any "mention of firearms" amounted to "interference with the operation of the school or the rights of others" because it "brings fear and concern to students, faculty and staff." Oddly, the administrators did not suspend themselves, even though their own e-mail included a "mention of firearms."

Tarrant County College, near Fort Worth, took the no-mention policy a step further, banning a student from wearing an empty holster to protest the campus ban on concealed guns. "We're protecting the learning environment," explained Juan Garcia, the school's vice president for student development and, clearly, a devoted scholar of academic doublespeak.

It's tempting to consider these cases as simply an extension of academia's batty response to the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, in which toy guns, wooden pirate cutlasses and even an entire production of the Stephen Sondheim musical Assassins were banned from campus drama clubs, as if American colleges were a giant firecracker of homicidal psychosis just waiting for any tiny spark to go off.

But Virginia Tech and the blind panic that followed it are two years behind us now, and the treatment of gun advocates feels a lot more like intellectual bullying than over-protective nannying. Like campus codes that lay down ideological rulebooks under the guise of outlawing sexual or racial harassment, labeling any reference to guns as a threat to public safety is a way for lefty baby boomer administrators and faculty members to impose their 1960s political orthodoxies on a younger generation.

"It's no coincidence that a lot of these things involve e-mails," says Robert Shibley, vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a public-interest law firm that defends campus civil liberties and has helped students in several of these cases.

"That's the popular new way for colleges to regulate speech, through technology-use policies. No college dean wants to go on record as saying he restricts free speech on his campus, so instead he says, `We're just making a rule that you can't use e-mail for offensive material."'

Of course, their definition of "offensive" has a distinct political overlay. I've never heard of a college student being suspended for calling George Bush a moron or Dick Cheney a war criminal. But making fun of feminists (Colorado College), opposing gay marriage (Los Angeles City College) or reading a book - a critical book - about the Ku Klux Klan (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) will bring down the wrath of administrators in a politically correct heartbeat.

A couple of years ago, FIRE even had to defend a hapless philosophy grad student at Marquette University who made the mistake of posting a "patently offensive" Dave Barry quote on his office door: "As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful, and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government." Geez, he didn't even say "booger."


Glenn Garvin is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla. 33132.


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T-minus Bush

posted by Jeremiah 1/11/2009 03:09:00 PM


At 1/11/2009 6:00 PM, Anonymous Eric said...

Can you make it go any faster?

At 1/12/2009 10:23 AM, Blogger Isaac Garcia said...

So, what does this mean?

Does the country explode when the ticker hits

And, is that because Bush is gone?

Or because Obama begins?

At 1/12/2009 4:49 PM, Blogger pasadenapio said...

Mayor Bogaard and Councilman Holden are going to the inaugural. I jealous, although I wouldn't really want to put up with all the crowds and traffic jams.

I'll have to be satisfied with inviting coworkers to watch it with me on TV in my office.

At 1/12/2009 9:09 PM, Blogger Jeremiah said...

Haha. Isaac got it right. Depending on your politics, this is either a countdown to a momentous launch or a countdown to doomsday.

At 1/13/2009 12:27 PM, Anonymous Eric said...


Does the country become a better place when the ticker hits

And, is that because Bush is gone?

Or because Obama begins?


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Texas kids trained to swarm

posted by Jeremiah 10/14/2006 09:39:00 AM

I read the article quoted at the end of this post in this morning's paper. Inexplicably, it elicited a kind of primal emotional response from me, much stronger even than the stories of the Amish school or any of the seemingly endless tide of stories of sociopaths/terrorists victimizing innocents.

I think this story in particular caused a notable emotional reaction in me because it underscores how numerous almost imperceptible shifts in reality have combined over time to the point where people are now beginning to train children in our civil society how to fight a gunman.

Whether the idea that our neighborhoods in the U.S. are more dangerous is real or imagined (aside: I am skeptical), there seems to be a shift in society's acknowledgement of (dare I say, obsession with) the fact that the world is a dangerous place. What I have always found irritating about typical media hype and irrational fear is the implication that innocence equals weakness, which this article does not. Somehow we generally think of an adult, and generally a man, when we think of the stereotype of "hero". So this story hits me from two sides. I feel righteous pride at the thought of innocents pooling their power to overcome evil, even as I balk at the thought of them having to be concerned with such things, which, while frightening, are unlikely to an extreme.

The conventional wisdom is that a child, especially a girl, is helpless, and must wait for a hero to save her. As the father of two daughters, there is no way I can buy into that. Reading the AP article below somehow validates my intuition and sense of righteousness. If faced with a threat, I want my girls to know how to keep a level head, and use all of their resources to protect themselves and others who cannot. One of the most heart wrenching facts I learned about the Amish school was that the oldest girl asked to be first... and then the next oldest asked to be second... my God! If those girls are not heroes, I don't know who is.

Rather than letting fear get the best of us, it is important to talk about the kind of threats we might actually face, and focus on preparation for dealing with such a threat should we actually find our selves faced with one. Where we live, the most likely threats are not generally the ones we see in the headlines. Most likely, is the "mundane" car accident. This is so much more likely a threat that we are almost numb to how dangerous it is to walk across a street, or ride in a car. We all teach our children rigorously about looking both ways and wearing seat belts. This is how we maintain the upper hand on fear. We identify the threat, practice prevention, figure out to do if faced with it, and go on with our lives. Doing so allows us to not be immobilized by the most likely mortal threat we all face on a daily basis.

Taking a look at CDC mortality statistics (pg 28 of CDC pdf), a 5 to 14 year old child is three times as likely to die of "malignant neoplasm", and eight times as likely to die in an accident than they are to be murdered. And yet a school gunman is so much more fearsome, probably because of the unpredictable randomness of it. We train our children how to stay out of the road and to buckle up, but we don't want to believe we need to train them how to take down a gunman. In fact we probably don't.

Statistically, they only stand a 5% chance of facing any kind of homicide when compared to the chance they will face a mortal accident. Put another way, in a given year, a 5 to 14 year old child in the U.S. stands a .0063% chance of death in an accident, and a .0008% chance of being murdered. These kinds of risks are so trivial that it is almost completely irrational to worry about them in any significant way. It is almost irrational to even think about them. And yet we are parents. We are genetically predisposed to invest ourselves in protecting our offspring.

So what to do? We don't want to lock our children in a bunker. We don't want to make our children nervous and paranoid. We want our children to believe that they are safe, which is a fact born out by the statistics. There is close to no chance that they will meet an untimely demise. I believe we need to train them to be pragmatic, self-confident and resourceful. We need to teach them that they are not helpless victims, and that they have a hero inside them. I am almost 36, and the conventional wisdom I was raised on, with regard to a gunman, is "don't be a hero". The idea behind this folk wisdom is based on the assumption that for the most part, gunmen are generally not bent on killing, but rather have another primary motivation such as robbery, etc. The idea was that it was much less risky to comply, and potentially lose your wallet rather than your life. This is still sound reasoning when it comes to a stickup.

But terrorism and this other incomprehensible kind of evil of killing innocents for no apparent reason beyond the killing itself seem to change the rules of engagement. The article below is the first sign I have seen that this new way of thinking is being implemented in the training of children. Somehow, it makes an awful kind of sense to teach kids how to respond to that kind of thing. Then on the other hand, one has to pause and think about what that means for us as a society. The fact is, I want my daughters to always know that they have a hero inside them, but I try to rest easy knowing that they probably will never have to summon that hero in a life-or-death situation.

Where we live, earthquake and wildfire are fairly likely threats. An encounter with a bear or mountain lion would not be inconceivable. I know that the likelihood of one of my daughters ever having to deal with a gunman in her school is so close to zero that I should not even be thinking about it. Clearly it is in the realm of extremely remote, but still, something about the image of five or six seventh graders swarming and immobilizing a gunman gives me a rush of righteousness, even as I remain unconvinced that training them to do so is the right thing to do. In the meantime, while I struggle with my feelings on that, I will continue to talk with my own daughters about making themselves big and loud if they ever find themselves face-to-face with a mountain lion, God forbid.

Texas School Tells Classes to Fight Back

- - - - - - - - - - - -

By JEFF CARLTON Associated Press Writer

October 13,2006 | BURLESON, Texas -- Youngsters in a suburban Fort Worth school district are being taught not to sit there like good boys and girls with their hands folded if a gunman invades the classroom, but to rush him and hit him with everything they got -- books, pencils, legs and arms.

"Getting under desks and praying for rescue from professionals is not a recipe for success," said Robin Browne, a major in the British Army reserve and an instructor for Response Options, the company providing the training to the Burleson schools.

That kind of fight-back advice is all but unheard of among schools, and some fear it will get children killed.

But school officials in Burleson said they are drawing on the lessons learned from a string of disasters such as Columbine in 1999 and the Amish schoolhouse attack in Pennsylvania last week.

The school system in this working-class suburb of about 26,000 is believed to be the first in the nation to train all its teachers and students to fight back, Browne said.

At Burleson -- which has 10 schools and about 8,500 students -- the training covers various emergencies, such as tornadoes, fires and situations where first aid is required. Among the lessons: Use a belt as a sling for broken bones, and shoelaces make good tourniquets.

Students are also instructed not to comply with a gunman's orders, and to take him down.

Browne recommends students and teachers "react immediately to the sight of a gun by picking up anything and everything and throwing it at the head and body of the attacker and making as much noise as possible. Go toward him as fast as we can and bring them down."

Response Options trains students and teachers to "lock onto the attacker's limbs and use their body weight," Browne said. Everyday classroom objects, such as paperbacks and pencils, can become weapons.

"We show them they can win," he said. "The fact that someone walks into a classroom with a gun does not make them a god. Five or six seventh-grade kids and a 95-pound art teacher can basically challenge, bring down and immobilize a 200-pound man with a gun."

The fight-back training parallels the change in thinking that has occurred since Sept. 11, when United Flight 93 made it clear that the usual advice during a hijacking -- Don't try to be a hero, and no one will get hurt -- no longer holds. Flight attendants and passengers are now encouraged to rush the cockpit.

Similarly, women and youngsters are often told by safety experts to kick, scream and claw they way out during a rape attempt or a child-snatching.

In 1998 in Oregon, a 17-year-old high school wrestling star with a bullet in his chest stopped a rampage by tackling a teenager who had opened fire in the cafeteria. The gunman killed two students, as well as his parents, and 22 other were wounded.

Hilda Quiroz of the National School Safety Center, a nonprofit advocacy group in California, said she knows of no other school system in the country that is offering fight-back training, and found the strategy at Burleson troubling.

"If kids are saved, then this is the most wonderful thing in the world. If kids are killed, people are going to wonder who's to blame," she said. "How much common sense will a student have in a time of panic?"

Terry Grisham, spokesman for the Tarrant County Sheriff's Department, said he, too, had concerns, though he had not seen details of the program.

"You're telling kids to do what a tactical officer is trained to do, and they have a lot of guns and ballistic shields," he said. "If my school was teaching that, I'd be upset, frankly."

Some students said they appreciate the training.

"It's harder to hit a moving target than a target that is standing still," said 14-year-old Jessica Justice, who received the training over the summer during freshman orientation at Burleson High.

William Lassiter, manager of the North Carolina-based Center for Prevention of School Violence, said past attacks indicate that fighting back, at least by teachers and staff, has its merits.

"At Columbine, teachers told students to get down and get on the floors, and gunmen went around and shot people on the floors," Lassiter said. "I know this sounds chaotic and I know it doesn't sound like a great solution, but it's better than leaving them there to get shot."

Lassiter questioned, however, whether students should be included in the fight-back training: "That's going to scare the you-know-what out of them."

Most of the freshman class at Burleson's high school underwent instruction during orientation, and eventually all Burleson students will receive some training, even the elementary school children.

"We want them to know if Miss Valley says to run out of the room screaming, that is exactly what they need to do," said Jeanie Gilbert, district director of emergency management. She said students and teachers should have "a fighting chance in every situation."

"It's terribly sad that when I get up in the morning that I have to wonder what may happen today either in our area or in the nation," Gilbert said. "Something that happens in Pennsylvania has that ripple effect across the country."

Burleson High Principal Paul Cash said he has received no complaints from parents about the training. Stacy Vaughn, the president of the Parent-Teacher Organization at Norwood Elementary in Burleson, supports the program.

"I feel like our kids should be armed with the information that these types of possibilities exist," Vaughn said.

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Report from St. Bernard's Parish

posted by Jeremiah 5/07/2006 10:44:00 AM

This story is obviously not local fare as Stonehill News tends to be, but it is an inspiring tale of civic responsibility and commitment. My wonderful, beautiful, twenty-something cousin, Amata, filed this report yesterday from New Orleans:

Hey Everyone!

I'm writing from St. Bernards Parish - 20 minutes outside of New Orleans. I have spent the last two months living here at a FEMA camp called Camp Premier. We leave here on Monday and are very sad to be moving on as this has been two of the most amazing months.

St. Bernard was the most completely destroyed region in the gulf. 67,000 plus residents all had their homes destroyed. There was only one structure in the Parish not ruined. The area was hit not only by Katrina, but a total of 4 catastrophes. Hurricane Katrina hit August 29 th, 2005, which caused not only severe wind and rain damage, but also the second disaster, a flood from the levees breaking. The 5 to 28 feet of floodwater that remained in the Parish for roughly 14 days receded only days before hurricane Rita brought about a second flood.

This flood left water in the Parish for seven days as well as lifted the Murphy's Oil tank to rise above its guard walls and spill into the surrounding residential area. This last disaster occurred due to the irresponsibility of Murphy Oil to follow hurricane procedures to fill all tanks, leaving it only one third full. We have spent the last two months living in the area, gutting (mucking) out houses, supervising/leading numerous other teams of volunteers (mostly Habitat for Humanity). Americorps runs the operations of the camp so we have team members running tool distribution, registration and reception, operations, logistics, and leading the other volunteers, most of whom are only here for 1 week.

We live in a tent city, sleeping on cots, using Porto Potties and shower trailers, all meals are provided by the camp and served in a large tent, the mess hall. The absolute best thing about the whole experience is the people that we have met. We get a chance to meet, live with and work with Americorps NCCC members from ours and other campuses, a large number of Habitat volunteers from all over the country, as well as some displaced persons from the area. We also work closely with the St. Bernards Fire Department - who are absolutely amazing. All residents of the Parish, they stayed through the storm and continue to live and work here. They are some incredible guys and we have had the chance to get to know them and hear their stories and experiences.

While working we also frequently have the opportunity to meet the homeowners whose houses we are working on, as well as other residents. It is one of the most illuminating things to meet and talk to the person that you are helping. They have all been wonderful, sharing stories, histories, lives. Some have brought us lunch, or snacks just to show their gratitude, but all have expressed a heartfelt appreciation for our work which just completes the experience.

But all work and no play make jack a dull boy, so trust me we have plenty of fun. Sticking to the motto work hard, play hard. Our days are filled with work, PT (physical training), team meetings and activities, but when we are not working we spend time hanging out with the other Americorps and Habitat volunteers with whom we have become very close. We are also 20 minutes form downtown New Orleans, so we spend many of our weekends exploring the French Quarter and downtown areas.

Our camp has a strict 12 am curfew (which I have only gotten out of a few times because we were out with the guards we have also befriended) so most of the time we will all get a hotel room and just stuff as many of us in there as possible. The most being 17, this makes it affordable of course. The most recent one, however had hard wood floors, who would put hard wood floors in their hotel? I, of course, was stuck sleeping on this floor, missing my cot. So we have our last weekend, which also happens to be the first weekend of Jazz Fest. So we are downtown the whole weekend to go out with a bang. Then we very sadly depart Monday morning for our next adventure.

We will travel to Pensacola, FL for one week to debrief from this project and get briefed on our next project. Then we will return to the great state of LA and spend the next 6 weeks in Thibodaux, about an hour form New Orleans in the SE corner of the state. We don't know much about the project, but we will be building houses with HFH. We will be living in one of the houses they have already built, not finished, but still a step up from tent city.

Anyways, we are excited about the next step, but sad to be leaving this place I have come to call home. I would love to hear from all of you. I miss everyone and want to know how you all are doing.

Lots of love!

Amata Small


At 9/22/2006 7:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have just read this account by Amata Small 09/22/06 so I hope this will get to the correct person. My wife and I did not stay behind but evacuated for Hurricane Katrina. I just want to from the bottom of my heart to first thank you for all your work and second to thank you for sharing your experience. May God continue to bless you and all. George Osborne


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We Love Netflix

posted by Jeremiah 1/10/2005 06:05:00 PM

Try Netflix.com We love it so much we dumped our cable, have no satellite, no TiVo, nothing else (except broadband of course). Just Netflix. We have 5 DVDs out from our cue of hundreds of DVDs we are interested in. When we finish watching one, we put it back in the prepaid mailer and stick it in our mailbox. As soon as they get it back, they send out a fresh one. If you click on the link, you will get a free trial. Netflix is way better than Blockbuster or Target because it has far more titles and a "Friends" feature that lets you see what your friends like and recommend DVDs to them too. When you sign up, make sure you get on our friends list.


At 5/22/2008 12:11 PM, Anonymous Raghu Srinivasan said...

If you love Netflix, we think you'll find FeedFlix useful too. FeedFlix is free to join for Netflixers and will show you useful stats and graphs about your Netflix usage including how much you are spending per movie with Netflix.

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