Sunday, March 31, 2013

Court: GA driver's license law is constitutional

ATLANTA — 

Georgia's highest court has rejected a Mexican national's argument that part of a state law that requires a Georgia-issued driver's license to get behind the wheel is unconstitutional because it discriminates against non-Georgia citizens.

In an opinion published Monday, the Supreme Court of Georgia unanimously rejected the argument by Fernando Castillo-Solis.

The law says anyone living in the state longer than 30 days must have a state-issued license, and anyone who violates that law can be punished unless they show up in court with a valid Georgia license.

Justice David Nahmias wrote Castillo-Solis' argument is largely based on an "incorrect interpretation" of the statute. Nahmias also argued Georgia's law does not violate due process or equal protection and that Castillo-Solis failed to show that it is pre-empted by federal law.

Saturday, March 30, 2013


3 dozen indicted in Atlanta cheating scandal

ATLANTA — The former superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools and nearly three dozen other administrators, teachers, principals and other educators were indicted Friday in one of the nation’s largest cheating scandals.

Former Superintendent Beverly Hall faces charges including racketeering, false statements and theft. She retired just days before a state probe was released in 2011 and has previously denied the allegations. The indictment represents the first criminal charges in the investigation.
The previous state investigation in 2011 found cheating by nearly 180 educators in 44 Atlanta schools. Educators gave answers to students or changed answers on tests after they were turned in, investigators said. Teachers who tried to report it faced retaliation, creating a culture of “fear and intimidation” in the district.
The cheating came to light after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that some scores were statistically improbable.

The criminal investigation lasted 21 months, and the allegations date back to 2005. In addition to Hall, 34 people were indicted, including four high-level administrators, six principals and 14 teachers.

During a news conference Friday, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard provided examples of two students who demonstrated “the plight of many children” in the Atlanta school system. He described one girl, a third-grader, who failed a benchmark exam and received the worst score in her reading class in 2006. The girl was held back, yet when she took a separate assessment test not long after, she passed with flying colors.

Howard said the girl’s mother, Justina Collins, knew something was awry, but was told by school officials that the child simply was a good test-taker. The girl is now in ninth grade, reading at a fifth-grade level.

Most of the 178 educators named in the special investigators’ report in 2011 resigned, retired, did not have their contracts renewed or appealed their dismissals and lost. Twenty-one educators have been reinstated and three await hearings to appeal their dismissals, said Atlanta Public Schools spokesman Stephen Alford.

The tests were the key measure the state used to determine whether it met the federal No Child Left Behind law. Schools with good test scores get extra federal dollars to spend in the classroom or on teacher bonuses.
State schools Superintendent John Barge said last year he believes the state’s new accountability system will remove the pressure to cheat on standardized tests because it won’t be the sole way the state determines student growth. The pressure was part of what some educators in Atlanta Public Schools blamed for their cheating.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Gun control debate intensifies as Grassley crafts new bill

By Alan Silverleib and Laurie Ure, CNN
updated 4:48 PM EDT, Thu March 28, 2013
 
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley is putting together a new gun control bill
  • Grassley is skeptical of new background checks -- an issue at the heart of the debate
  • Grassley's bill could provide cover for red state Democrats and some Republicans
  • Obama urges Congress not to get "squishy" on gun control
Washington (CNN) -- A top congressional Republican is drafting alternative gun control legislation that threatens to undermine proposals now under consideration by leaders of the Senate's Democratic majority.

A spokeswoman for Iowa's Chuck Grassley refused to give CNN details of the senator's plan. In the past, however, he has backed measures to deter "straw purchases" to clamp down on gun trafficking. He also supports new safety provisions for schools.
 
Grassley is a staunch opponent of a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines. He has also expressed skepticism about new background checks -- an idea at the heart of the current congressional debate.
 
"Sen. Grassley is putting together a bill to reduce gun violence without violating the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens," spokeswoman Beth Levine told CNN. "The bill is still being written, so we're not able to share it at this time."
 
The plan being put together by Grassley -- first reported by Politico -- further complicates the politics of gun control in Congress, where the National Rifle Association is extremely powerful.
 
President Barack Obama pushed new gun control legislation near the top of the legislative priority list in the wake of December's school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 first-graders were killed. But Democrats are struggling to find the 60 votes needed to push any new measures through the 100-member Senate.
 
Alternative legislation from Grassley could provide cover for moderate Democrats from more conservative states looking to back some sort of bill not vehemently opposed by the NRA or other political heavyweights. It could also help firm up GOP opposition to more expansive legislation including background checks.
 
Addressing gun control supporters at a White House event on Thursday, Obama accused gun rights activists of playing a crass game of political obstruction.
 
"There are some powerful voices on the other side who are interested in running out the clock, or changing the subject," the president said. "Their assumption is that people will just forget about it" as Newtown recedes further into the past.
 
If that happens, said Obama, then "shame on us."
 
The list of proposals backed by the president in the aftermath of Newtown includes expanded background checks, tougher laws against gun trafficking and straw purchases, and improving safety at schools. Obama also supports a renewal of the assault weapons ban, though that provision has been virtually abandoned by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada.
 
The president on Thursday rejected arguments by opponents of the legislation that the measures under consideration by Democrats -- including background checks -- would strip Americans of their constitutional right to bear arms.
 
"What we're proposing is not radical. It's not taking away anyone's gun rights," Obama said. Congress shouldn't get "squishy because time has passed and maybe (the issue's) not on the news every day."
But much of what Obama considers "squishy" is seen by senators like Grassley as a principled defense of basic freedoms.
 
"Throughout history, governments have wanted to shut up those who would criticize government, to suppress unpopular religions, or to disarm people," Grassley declared at a January 30 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
 
"The Constitution for 225 years has established a government that is the servant of the people, not the master," he said. As "we consider and debate legislation arising (Newtown and other) tragedies, I hope that we will proceed with proper understanding of the relationship that the Constitution establishes between government power and individual liberty."
Senator Ted Cruz blasts President Obama for invoking Newtown victims to promote his agenda

President Obama gave a speech yesterday essentially shaming the country for not passing gun control measures in the wake of the Newtown Connecticut massacre. Senator Ted Cruz isn’t having any of it and released a statement taking the President to task for invoking the elementary school victims of a massacre to promote his left-wing agenda.
from Ted Cruz:
In any conversation about how to prevent future tragedies such as Sandy Hook, our focus should be on stopping criminals from obtaining guns. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has failed to make this a priority — in 2010, out of more than 15,700 fugitives and felons who tried to illegally purchase a firearm, the Obama Justice Department prosecuted only 44. That is unacceptable.

It is saddening to see the President today, once again, try to take advantage of this tragic murder to promote an agenda that will do nothing to stop violent crime, but will undermine the constitutional rights of all law-abiding Americans. I am committed to working with Sens. Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, and Jim Inhofe—and I hope many other colleagues—to use any procedural means necessary to protect those fundamental rights.
Cruz went into more detail about President Obama’s failure to prosecute violent criminals in his interview with Glenn Beck on Wednesday. This week, he and Rand Paul hand delivered a letter to Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid vowing to block any gun control efforts that come to the Senate floor. Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, and Jim Inhofe also signed the letter.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Progressive Democrat Control Came Via Welfare State Voters

 Posted 
One other pillar of the liberal Democrats' systematic takeover genuinely was a conscious conspiracy — no conspiracy theory — and has even received belated recognition recently.

If you are old enough, you can remember Democrats such as Ted Kennedy, in their rare candid moments, rhapsodizing that someday, when they could get 50% of the U.S. population plus one receiving a government check of some kind, they would never again lose a national election! The notorious but true 47% cited by Mitt Romney apparently is close enough.

Then, an especially vile tributary of this liberal Democrat cynicism is what they have done to destroy the U.S. underclass, especially the black underclass.

This tragedy can be exposed via one rhetorical question: What would happen to the Democrats if all the poor in this country suddenly became rich? They'd never win another election, would they?

So the Democrats have a vested need to keep the poor down. Our permanent welfare class is no accident. Government incentives for people to stay poor may be well-calculated.

But with a repressed minority manipulated into believing that Democrats are on its side, now to be joined via immigration by a large number of Hispanics that the Dems see as captive voters, the new U.S. demographics make the liberal Democrats' scheme to finesse a permanent one-party government a near certainty.

Welcome to our brave new world of Amerika, the radical transformation Barack Obama promised.
Don't agree? Think about who runs the Democratic Party today. They are the remnants of the '60s and '70s radicals, grown older if not grown up (see Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, etc.).

And what were they back then? Fellow travelers of the international leftist movement — that is, socialists and Marxists — in case you don't recall, and they seem not to have changed much given how much GDP they seek to control.

These are the people who rooted for the North in the Vietnam War, and then did everything they could to undermine the Iraq War. (See Harry Reid's "This war is lost.")

The worst is yet to come.

Perhaps you've noticed a negative change in political tactics in our country. It all may have started with the tendency of liberal audiences on college campuses to shout down any speakers they disagree with, a revelation of intolerance of diversity of opinion.

A frequent harbinger has been the "politics of personal destruction," diversionarily decried by Democrats and liberals but energetically practiced by their side against anyone who is a threat to them. (Recall the origin of the term "Borking" and the "lynching" of Clarence Thomas.)

Another symptom is the Democrats' heavy-handed, even brutal, proclivity to criminalize any opposition to their agenda, i.e., a blood sport political orientation of "we will not only ruin you, we will prosecute you." (Remember how the Clintons tried to railroad an innocent man named Billy Dale into prison just because he was in the way of some patronage jobs.)

In other words, the liberal Democrats in the U.S. have been inadvertently revealing hints for years about their proto-Stalinist tendencies.

Almost all of organized human life has been lived under dictatorship. There have been only a few exceptions in all of history, notably the last couple of centuries in much of the West.

It simply has taken slightly over two centuries for that type of ruling group, the autocratic dictatorship type, to take control in the United States. Expect more demonstrations of it.

As Bill O'Reilly of FoxNews, has said, "People fear the left because the left is vicious."
True, and that is exactly their intention, as the most ruthless dictators of the last century understood. It is called reign of terror, and it is the most efficient way of seizing power.

This is not your father's Democrat party. Ultra-leftists such as modern U.S. liberals reveal their totalitarian proclivities in many subtle ways — and some that are not so subtle.

The preceding recitation is of the latter kind. (So is prohibiting purchase of more than 16 ounces of pop, though of a lesser magnitude.)

Today's emboldened liberals are carelessly showing their true colors.

And did you see the latest advice to Obama from liberal icon Harry Belafonte — to simply imprison any who disagree with him? As the left realizes that it has finally achieved permanent rule in the U.S., the gloves will really come off. Farewell free country.

I'm glad I lived when I did. The future appears bleak, auguring even a second Dark Ages as our country's inevitable collapse allows for world domination by China and Islam.

What plans do you suppose they have for our people, in the post-American period?

In telling my poor millennial students how glad I am that I won't be around to share the future with them, I offer: As the robot said to its doomed crewmates in the first "Alien" movie, "You have my sympathy."

The U.S. populace has simply become too ignorant, stupid and weak (qualities reflected in those it chooses to send to Washington) for the nation to survive.

The country is committing slow-motion assisted suicide — maybe not so slow anymore.

It must be said because the tipping point has been passed: The liberal Democrats are literally destroying America. Have a nice day.

• Gaski, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business, is a former Democrat; his primary research area is social and political power.

Read More At Investor's Business Daily: http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials-viewpoint/032013-648719-far-left-control-was-built-on-votes-by-those-who-take-welfare.htm#ixzz2OgiTbKfq
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McDonnell signs law requiring photo ID for voters

RICHMOND — Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has signed a bill that would require voters to present a photo ID to cast a ballot as soon as fall 2014.

McDonnell also issued an executive order directing the State Board of Elections to implement a plan to inform the public about the changes. The board also would help people lacking appropriate photo identification to obtain IDs before the 2014 elections, when the measure would take effect.
More news about Va. politics
The General Assembly passed the legislation this session over the objection of Democrats, who called the measure an unnecessary burden on the poor, elderly and minorities. In signing the bill, McDonnell emphasized that the law would provide for a free photo ID to anyone who lacks one.

“I thought the bill did properly balance the ballot security and honest election requirement with any civil liberty or impediment-to-voting concerns,” McDonnell said during his monthly WTOP radio appearance on “Ask the Governor.” “And the fact that there’s a free ID, just like we had last year. And we’re going to have a sustained voter education campaign. I think that will be implemented just fine.”

McDonnell’s action was among several he took ahead of Monday’s midnight deadline to amend or veto bills from the 46-day legislative session that ended Feb. 23. The governor also proposed changes to transportation overhaul legislation that passed the General Assembly last month in response to concerns from citizens and the business community — and in hopes of averting a legal challenge. He also tweaked language in the budget to make clear what would constitute Medicaid reform before the state expands the program under the new federal health care law.

On the issue of photo ID, McDonnell’s spokesman, Tucker Martin, issued a statement in support of voting regulations adopted last year. “The governor believes Virginia’s current system generally has proven successful,” Martin said after the bill cleared the Senate in February.

McDonnell sought last year to blunt criticism that the 2012 voter ID law disenfranchised some voters, and issued an executive order that elections officials mail new voter ID cards to registered voters.
He was asked on WTOP why he supported the photo ID bill even though he had said the current rules had worked well.

“I said there was good compliance with the bill last year,” McDonnell said. “That doesn’t mean it is sufficient scrutiny to be sure that when a voter shows up with an ID that does not have his or her picture, that that is sufficient to be able to determine whether or not it is that voter.”
The governor acknowledged that the bill is still subject to approval by the Department of Justice under the Voting Rights Act.

Transportation was the marquee issue for the term-limited McDonnell , who urged action in his final session on an issue that has long stymied the state, and the final compromise was hard fought in both chambers.

Key to the legislation’s passage was additional funding for two of the commonwealth’s most congested areas, Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. But on Friday, Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli II (R) raised concerns about the constitutionality of the regional funding proposals.

Mark Kelly AR-15 Purchase Blocked by Tucson Gun Store

Gun store owner questions 'intent' of gun control proponent

March 26, 2013 RSS Feed Print
Mark Kelly testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about gun control, Jan. 30, 2013.
Mark Kelly testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about gun control, Jan. 30, 2013.
 
Mark Kelly, the retired astronaut and husband of former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, will not be laying a hand on an AR-15-style rifle he paid for at a Tucson, Ariz., gun shop earlier this month.
Douglas MacKinlay, the owner of Diamondback Police Supply Co., announced in a Facebook post Monday he had determined Kelly's "intent" unworthy of one of his customers.

"While I support and respect Mark Kelly's 2nd Amendment rights to purchase, possess, and use firearms in a safe and responsible manner, his recent statements to the media made it clear that his intent in purchasing the Sig Sauer M400 5.56mm rifle from us was for reasons other then for his personal use," MacKinlay said in the statement. "In light of this fact, I determined that it was in my company's best interest to terminate this transaction prior to his returning to my store to complete the Federal From 4473 and NICS background check required of Mr. Kelly before he could take possession this firearm. A full refund was sent to Mr. Kelly, via express mail, on Thursday of last week."

MacKinlay said the gun would be donated to the Arizona Tactical Officers Association so that it can be raffled to raise money for state police equipment. His store, said MacKinlay, was also donating $1,295—the cost of the gun—to the National Rifle Association's Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program.
Kelly, whose wife was shot in the head and nearly died in 2011 when Jared Lee Loughner used a semi-automatic pistol to shoot up a crowd in Tucson, had previously said in a Facebook post that the gun purchase was incredibly fast and easy.

"I just had a background check a few days ago when I went to my local gun store to buy a 45. As I was leaving, I noticed a used AR-15. Bought that too," Kelly wrote in the post. "Even to buy an assault weapon, the background check only takes a matter of minutes. I don't have possession yet but I'll be turning it over to the Tucson PD when I do. Scary to think of people buying guns like these without a background check at a gun show or the Internet."

In a statement to Breitbart News earlier this month, the gun store explained that the AR-15-style gun Kelly bought was acquired from another customer and "cannot be released to Mr. Kelly or any other customer for a minimum of 20 days in accordance with local ordinances. ... Once the hold period is up," the store said, "Mr. Kelly must then show proper identification, complete the Federal Firearms Transfer Record (Form 4473) and successfully complete the NICS background check prior to his taking physical possession of the firearm."
 

Shatner ‘appalled’ by IRS ‘Trek’ spoof

By Mario Trujillo - 03/26/13 10:56 AM ET

William Shatner said he is “appalled” by the Internal Revenue Services’s spoof of “Star Trek” — the television show that made him famous for his portrayal of Captain James Kirk.

Last week, the IRS apologized for spending $60,000 on the parody, which was intended to be used as a training video. Lawmakers — and now the show’s star actor — have blasted it as a senseless use of taxpayer money.
“So I watched that IRS video. I am appalled at the utter waste of U.S. tax dollars,” Shatner tweeted Tuesday Morning.

The six-minute “Star Trek” video made in Maryland was shown to agency employees at a conference in 2010. In the video, IRS workers are meticulously dressed as characters from the popular TV show and are flying a staged space craft towards the planet “Notax.”
Shatner, who is known for his distinct style of overacting, didn’t weigh in on the performance seen in the video.
The IRS has called the video a “mistake” and promised to clamp down on similar productions in the future.

"The IRS recognizes and takes seriously our obligation to be good stewards of government resources and taxpayer dollars," the agency said. "There is no mistaking that this video did not reflect the best stewardship of resources."
The video was made public when the House Ways and Means Oversight subcommittee requested it along with a separate parody that the IRS made of the television show “Gilligan’s Island.” The "Gilligan’s Island" video was deemed to have training value.

“There is nothing more infuriating to a taxpayer than to find out the government is using their hard-earned dollars in a way that is frivolous,” said Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Oversight subcommittee, in a statement last week.


Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/290319-shatner-appalled-by-irs-star-trek-spoof#ixzz2OfZ4GNZQ

Under threat, South Koreans mull nuclear weapons

By K.J. Kwon, CNN
updated 8:23 PM EDT, Mon March 18, 2013

Nuclear fears in South Korea

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Under heated rhetoric from North Korea, some South Koreans call for nuclear weapons
  • South Korea does not have nuclear arms because of the 'nuclear umbrella' provided by U.S.
  • Recent poll: 66% of South Koreans support developing nuclear weapons program
Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- The barrage of threats from North Korea has sparked talk from within South Korea of the need to develop its own nuclear weapons.

A recent poll shows that two-thirds of South Korean citizens surveyed support the idea, especially in the wake of North Korea's third nuclear test in February.
 
"We, the Korean people, have been duped by North Korea for the last 20 to 30 years and it is now time for South Koreans to face the reality and do something that we need to do," said Chung Mong-joon, a lawmaker in the governing Saenuri (New Frontier) Party and a former presidential
conservative candiate. "The nuclear deterrence can be the only answer. We have to have nuclear capability."
 
The talk of South Korea arming with its own nuclear weapon used to be taboo in the country-- and there's no apparent official government move to do so. But the tensions between the two Korean nations have amplified over the weeks, becoming reminiscent of the Cold War.
 
Congressmen on global threats
Fareed's Take: Understanding N. Korea
U.S. to boost missile defense
Kim Jong Un: Break enemies' waists
 
Earlier this month, South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok responded to North Korea's threat to attack the South with a pre-emptive nuclear strike saying: "If North Korea is to attack the South with its nuclear weapons... Kim Jong Un's regime will cease to exist on the face of Earth."
 
After North Korea conducted its third nuclear test last month, the South unveiled a cruise missile, which it claims to be so precise that it can target "a specific window of a North Korean military commander's office."
 
Some commentators in South Korean media have been calling for a nuclear weapons option, claiming that the country has the technology and economy to develop them in a short period of time. And public opinion is following in line.
 
According to a February poll conducted by South Korea's private think tank, Asan Institute, 66% of South Koreans said they support developing a nuclear weapons program. The poll suggests that just under half of South Koreans in 2012 believed that the United States would provide South Korea with what's known as the "nuclear umbrella" in the case of a North Korean nuclear attack, indicating a 7% decrease from 2011.
 
Under the nuclear umbrella, the U.S. is to provide South Korea with defensive means to ensure deterrence against a nuclear threat.
 
In recent times, South Korea has been known for little if no reaction on North Korea's provocations and threats. Its attitude changed after the 2010 attack on its battleship That killed more than 40 sailors -- North Korea was blamed. That same year, there was also outrage after the North shelled Yeonpyeong Island. South Korea returned fire and also began responding to North Korea with its own strong words.
 
But not all South Koreans are rallying behind the cause of developing South Korean nuclear weapons.
 
If South Korea makes nuclear weapons, nonproliferation in the region would soon fall apart, Han Yong-sup, professor at the Korea National Defense University said. "Japan and Taiwan could follow the suit. Then, a domino effect of nuclear proliferation will result," he said.
 
To assuage anxieties in South Korea, "Washington needs to make an official statement in order to make U.S. extended deterrence more credible," Han added.
 
Experts say that China, also a powerful economic partner with South Korea, will never agree with the idea of nuclear armed South Korea, because "it will affect Sino-U.S. ties," said Yang Zhaohui, a professor of international relations at Peking University.
 
But so far, China hasn't been pleased with Kim's nuclear ambitions, although it is North Korea's closest ally and economic supporter. China recently signed on to tougher U.N. sanctions against the north, targeting that country's nuclear program.
 
"China appears to be getting impatient on North Korea," Yang said. "The Chinese government does not appear to be controlling its public opinion on North Korea anymore. North Korea is not popular here."
 
Recently, criticism of North Korea have become rampant on Sina Weibo, the popular Chinese microblog.
 
Kim Jong Un has even earned a nickname "Jin Sanpang" which means "Fat Kim the Third," and has become a popular subject of satire among Chinese netizens.
 
An editorial printed in China's state-run newspaper Global Times in January warned North Korea that if it conducted a nuclear test it would not hesitate to reduce assistance to North Korea.
 
"China's attitude towards North Korea appears to be changing," Yan said. "But China's priority is peace and stability in the region. It wants to maintain good relationship with both South and North Korea."

Monday, March 25, 2013

Bill Gates offering up to $1 million for 'next-generation' condom

  • Condom
    iStock
Philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates is offering start-up funds of $100,000 to anyone who can come up with the “next-generation condom,” according to Grand Challenges in Global Health.
The Round 11 of Grand Challenges Explorations initiative through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is aimed at improving the lives of the world’s poorest people – and a new, innovative condom could do just that.

The condom must be effective at lowering the chance of transmitting sexually transmitted diseases, and offer incentive for men and women to use it.

If chosen, the Foundation would continue to fund the condom up to $1 million.

“To overcome persistent health and development problems, we need new, game-changing ideas,” Chris Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery & Translational Science at the Foundation, said in a press release. “Inspiration can come from anywhere, and we are hopeful that this new round of Grand Challenges Explorations will uncover innovative approaches to improve lives around the world.”

According to the press release, the new condom will “preserve or enhance the pleasure so as to increase uptake and also promote its regular use.”

The proposals must have a “testable hypothesis . . . an associated plan for how the idea would be validated . . . and would yield . . .an unambiguous data plan in Phase I, to be considered for Phase II.”
Of course, the condom should also be easy to use and include ground-breaking design.

Click for more from Grand Challenges in Global Health or to submit your idea online.


Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/03/25/bill-gates-offering-up-to-1-million-for-next-generation-condom/#ixzz2OYjYMUvZ
Kerry Makes Surprise Visit to Afghanistan
                  

Airlines should charge 'fat tax' on obese travellers because their extra weight burns more fuel, says Professor

  • Professor says overweight passengers generate higher costs for airlines
  • He suggests they pay more when they fly, while slim people pay less
  • But some in the industry feel the proposals are unworkable
By Sam Webb
|
A pay-what-you-weigh airline pricing scheme should be introduced because heavier people cost more in fuel to fly, a professor has claimed.
Heavier passengers would pay more for their plane tickets and lighter ones less under plans put forward by Dr Bharat P Bhatta.
Writing in this month's Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management publication, Dr Bhatta said weight and space should be taken into account when airlines price their tickets.
Heavy cargo: A Norwegian professor says airlines should force overweight passengers to pay more to fly than their svelter counterparts
Heavy cargo: A Norwegian professor says airlines should force overweight passengers to pay more to fly than their thinner counterparts
Dr Bhatta, of the Sogn og Fjordane University College in Norway, said: 'Charging according to weight and space is a universally accepted principle, not only in transportation, but also in other services.
'As weight and space are far more important in aviation than other modes of transport, airlines should take this into account when pricing their tickets.'

Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management editor Dr Ian Yeoman said: 'For airlines, every extra kilogram means more expensive jet fuel must be burned, which leads to CO2 emissions and financial cost.
'As the airline industry is fraught with financial difficulties, marginally profitable and has seen exponential growth in the last decade, maybe they should be looking to introduce scales at the check-in.'
Light aircraft: Dr Bhatta's proposals include lighter passengers enjoying a discount when they fly
Light aircraft: Dr Bhatta's proposals include lighter passengers enjoying a discount when they fly
Dr Bhatta says the fare could be generated with a fixed rate for kilograms per passenger so that a person weighing 60kg pays half the airfare of a 120kg person.
Alternatively, airlines could have a 'base' fare with an additional charge for heavier passengers to cover the extra costs, as well as a discount for lighter flyers.
The proposals have detractors, such as Bob Atkinson of TravelSupermarket.com. He questioned whether passengers would be entitled to a discount if they lose weight between when they booked their tickets and when they arrive at the airport.
He told the Daily Express: 'Customers are already paying extra charges for their baggage, but actually making one for a person - I think that's a bit distasteful.'


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2298660/Obese-travellers-pay-sky-high-fees-fly-extra-weight-burns-fuel-says-Dr-Bharat-P-Bhatta.html#ixzz2OYI1ZSA4
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Syria rebel commander Riad al-Asaad wounded by blast

Undated video of Riad al-Asaad Col Riad al-Asaad has regularly appeared with rebel fighters on the ground in Syria

A senior rebel military commander has been seriously wounded by a bomb blast in eastern Syria, activists say.

A device exploded next to a car carrying Col Riad al-Asaad, formerly head of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), in Mayadeen, Deir al-Zour province.

An FSA spokesman told the BBC he lost a leg and was now in a Turkish hospital.

Meanwhile, Moaz al-Khatib, who resigned as head of the opposition National Coalition on Sunday, has said he plans to address a summit in Qatar this week.

In a statement on his Facebook page, Mr Khatib said that after "consulting trustworthy figures", he had "decided to make a speech in the name of the Syrian people".

Nizar al-Haraki, the coalition's envoy in Doha, said Mr Khatib would head the Syrian opposition delegation filling the seat of Syria at the Arab League meeting. Syria's membership was suspended in November 2011.

Mr Khatib complained in his resignation statement on Sunday about foreign powers, which he claimed were withholding aid from the opposition while trying to control it.

"They support whomever is ready to obey, and the one who refuses has to face starvation and siege," he said. "We will not beg to satisfy anyone, and if there is a decision to execute us as Syrians, so let it be."

His decision came five days after the coalition elected Ghassan Hitto as prime minister of an interim government, which he considered premature.
Damascus shelled
The FSA spokesman told BBC Arabic that Col Assad had been conducting a tour of the eastern town of Mayadeen on Sunday night when a bomb exploded near his car.

He was seriously injured and lost a leg, Col Aref al-Hummoud said.

Map of Syria

Col Asaad was later transferred to a hospital in Turkey for treatment and his condition was stable, the FSA spokesman added.

A relative of Col Asaad and a Turkish official also confirmed that he was being treated in Turkey and that his injuries were not believed to be life threatening.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing.

Col Asaad, a former Syrian Air Force commander, defected to the opposition in July 2011 and set up the Free Syrian Army a month later in Turkey.

Under Col Asaad, the FSA functioned as an umbrella group for army defectors, civilians who had taken up arms, and Islamist militants. Fighters had only limited contact with each other or the exiled leaders.

As the armed rebellion progressed, Col Asaad was gradually superseded.

In December 2012, more than 260 leaders of the main FSA units from across Syria agreed at a meeting in Antalya to a unified command structure. They elected a 30-member Supreme Military Council (SMC), which then chose Gen Salim Idriss as the new chief of staff.

Col Asaad said he had not been invited to the meeting by the foreign powers that organised it, adding: "They want people who obey orders."

He nevertheless remained a prominent figure in the armed uprising, regularly appearing with rebel fighters on the ground in Syria.

In a separate development on Monday, rebels were reported to have shelled a high-security area within 1km (0.6 miles) of President Assad's residence in Damascus.

At least one person was killed by the mortar explosions in Umayyad Square, government-run Ikhbariya TV reported.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Children should be allowed to get bored, expert says

 
 
Child in 
 
 Dr Belton said children needed time to stand and stare.
 
Children should be allowed to get bored so they can develop their innate ability to be creative, an education expert says.

Dr Teresa Belton told the BBC cultural expectations that children should be constantly active could hamper the development of their imagination

She quizzed author Meera Syal and artist Grayson Perry about how boredom had aided their creativity as children.

Syal said boredom made her write, while Perry said it was a "creative state".

The senior researcher at the University of East Anglia's School of Education and Lifelong Learning interviewed a number of authors, artists and scientists in her exploration of the effects of boredom.

She heard Syal's memories of the small mining village, with few distractions, where she grew up.

Dr Belton said: "Lack of things to do spurred her to talk to people she would not otherwise have engaged with and to try activities she would not, under other circumstances, have experienced, such as talking to elderly neighbours and learning to bake cakes.

"Boredom is often associated with solitude and Syal spent hours of her early life staring out of the window across fields and woods, watching the changing weather and seasons.

"But importantly boredom made her write. She kept a diary from a young age, filling it with observations, short stories, poems, and diatribe. And she attributes these early beginnings to becoming a writer late in life."
'Reflection'
 
The comedienne turned writer said: "Enforced solitude alone with a blank page is a wonderful spur."
While Perry said boredom was also beneficial for adults: "As I get older, I appreciate reflection and boredom. Boredom is a very creative state."

And neuroscientist and expert on brain deterioration Prof Susan Greenfield, who also spoke to the academic, recalled a childhood in a family with little money and no siblings until she was 13
.
"She happily entertained herself with making up stories, drawing pictures of her stories and going to the library."

Dr Belton, who is an expert in the impact of emotions on behaviour and learning, said boredom could be an "uncomfortable feeling" and that society had "developed an expectation of being constantly occupied and constantly stimulated".

But she warned that being creative "involves being able to develop internal stimulus".

"Nature abhors a vacuum and we try to fill it," she said. "Some young people who do not have the interior resources or the responses to deal with that boredom creatively then sometimes end up smashing up bus shelters or taking cars out for a joyride."

'Short circuit'
 
The academic, who has previously studied the impact of television and videos on children's writing, said:

"When children have nothing to do now, they immediately switch on the TV, the computer, the phone or some kind of screen. The time they spend on these things has increased.

"But children need to have stand-and-stare time, time imagining and pursuing their own thinking processes or assimilating their experiences through play or just observing the world around them."

It is this sort of thing that stimulates the imagination, she said, while the screen "tends to short circuit that process and the development of creative capacity".

Syal adds: "You begin to write because there is nothing to prove, nothing to lose, nothing else to do.
"It's very freeing being creative for no other reason other than you freewheel and fill time."

Dr Belton concluded: "For the sake of creativity perhaps we need to slow down and stay offline from time to time."

Lawmaker seeks to ban Google Glass use while driving

, Mar 24th 2013 
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A lawmaker in West Virginia is seeking to ban the use of Google Glass, and other Google Glass-esque products, while driving. Gary G. Howell, a republican in the West Virginia Legislature, believes that Google Glass poses the same dangers, if not worse, as texting and driving. He does have a valid point, because how safe can it be to watch a YouTube video while heading to the grocery store?
Lawmaker seeks to ban Google Glass use while driving

If the legislation passes, using Google Glass while driving would incur a hefty fine. For the first offense, you will be charged $100. Every offense following will incur an accumulative $100 charge (i.e 2nd offense = $200, 3rd offense = $300, and so on). Driving while wearing Google Glass wouldn’t be worth the risk, especially since buying the device itself will cost you a fortune.

It should be noted that Howell doesn’t hate the idea of Google Glass, and in fact sees it as the future.

However, he believes that using Google Glass will pose a great danger to drivers, especially the younger, teen drivers. He stated, “We heard of many crashes caused by texting and driving, most involving our youngest drivers. I see the Google Glass as an extension.”

Howell also says that even if his proposal isn’t turned into a law, he believes that similar bills will be filed by other legislatures. Many debates have already surfaced over the proposed bill. Many cars already have HUD systems that can be just as distracting as Google Glass. And Google Glass is much more safer than looking down at your phone while texting. Your eyes (at least one) will still be on the road, and your hands will still be on the wheel.

It all depends on what happens when the device actually comes out, and if people are responsible enough to use it. We shouldn’t really have to worry about too many teens buying Google Glass when it comes out and using it while they’re driving, because its doubtful that many of them can afford its high price-tag.
Protesters against gay marriage and adoption file down the Grande-Armee avenue in Paris, 24 March Protesters filled the Grande-Armee avenue


Hundreds of thousands of people have gathered in central Paris for a final mass protest against a bill to legalise same-sex marriage and adoption. 

Demonstrators gathered along a major street up to the Arc de Triomphe.

There were scuffles and police fired tear gas as the protest spilled over onto the Champs Elysees, the avenue which runs past the president's palace.

1 Month after it was passed by the lower house of parliament.

President Francois Hollande's Socialist Party and its allies dominate both houses.

Opinion polls suggest a majority of French people still support gay marriage but their numbers have fallen in recent weeks.

Banners unfurled along the march route included "Hands off my filiation" and "We want work, not gay marriage".

Police had banned the protesters from the Champs Elysees, but groups of them broke through to the avenue.
Police used batons and tear gas to try to dislodge several hundred people who gathered there as the main demonstration ended.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls said the remaining protesters were mostly from far-right groups.
However, the head of the centre-right opposition UMP party, Jean-Fran├žois Cope, said some families on the protest had been caught up in the teargas.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Italian media vociferous over return of marines


The Italian newspapers were vociferous on their government’s decision to send back the two Italian marines to stand trial in India.
 
Reports appearing in several newspapers give an indication that a guarantee on no death penalty for the marines has been sought from India. Italy had abolished death penalty in 1947.
 
According to reports available online, the decision was taken in the morning on Thursday at an emergency meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Security of the Republic which was chaired by Prime Minister Mario Monti and attended by Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi, Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri, Justice Minister Paola Severino, Defence Minister Giampaolo Di Paola, Economy and Finance Minister Vittorio Grilli.
 
Soon afterwards Mr. Monti along with Mr. Di Paolo and Deputy Foreign Minister Stephan Di Mistura summoned the marines Massimilano Lattore and Salvatore Girone and talked to them for close to four hours, the news paper reports said.
 
According to the newspaper La Nazione, Indian officials were also involved in the discussions from the Delhi end but the report did not identify the Indian officials. The newspaper Il Mondo reported that as per a note issued from Palazzo Chigi, the official residence of the Italian Prime Minister, “the government has received written assurance from India on the treatment of the two marines when they arrive in India and also a guarantee on protection of their fundamental rights.”
 
The same newspaper also quoted Mr. De Mistura as saying that “New Delhi has assured that there will be no death penalty against the marines.” The newspaper La Gazetta Del Mezzogiorno quotes Mr. De Mistura ‘‘the word given by an Italian is sacred. We had suspended their return because we were waiting for a guarantee on certain conditions from New Delhi.’’
 
La Gazetta Del Mezzogiorno published from Bari, the native place of Girone, said that as he was leaving his house, loud screams of a woman could be heard from the house. He was accompanied by a good crowd of friends and relatives. He was in tears when he left his house. Lattore while visiting his house in Taranto on Thursday broke down, the newspaper reported, adding that police security was arranged at the house to control crowds.
 
The newspaper La Repubblica said Mayor of Bari Michele Emiliano launched a devastating attack on the government for the decision to send back the marines. “I now entrust our two heroes to the Indian institutions to protect them. I hope that the Republic of India is less clumsy than the Monti government.’’