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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Trump Flipflops On Gun Violence: "Stuff Happens"

"On 'Meet the Press' on Sunday, Donald Trump explained that there was no sense in even tinkering with our gun laws. 'You know, no matter what you do, guns, no guns, it doesn’t matter. You have people that are mentally ill. And they’re gonna come through the cracks,' he told Chuck Todd.

"His comments on 'This Week' were similarly fatalistic. 'No matter what you do, you will have problems and that’s the way the world goes.'

"When host George Stephanopoulos noted how uncharacteristically can’t-do this attitude was for Trump, the latter insisted: 'Now, George, I could say, oh, we’re going to do this and that and it’s never going to happen again. You have sick people in this country and throughout the world, and you’re always going to have difficulty.'"

(Catherine Rampell. "On guns, Trump finally meets his Kryptonite."
The Washington Post. October 06, 2015.)

As Catherine Rampell -- writer, winner of the Weidenbaum Center Award for Evidence-Based Journalism, and Gerald Loeb Award finalist -- notes, here is a presidential candidate who claims he has the solution to every problem facing the nation, yet "on this issue, and this issue alone, Trump is -- like every other Republican contender -- strangely passive."

Rampell understands that although Trump claims he is unrestrained by special interests, it is evident he answers the question about gun violence "paying  obeisance to perhaps the most powerful special interest in the country, the gun lobby (from which he seems to have cribbed his own gun policy proposals)." Trump's position mirrors many of the National Rifle Association’s talking points.

Did you know that Trump has not always spoken so strongly in favor of guns or the Second Amendment?

During his bid for the Reform Party nomination in 2000, Trump had what seem like much more reasonable views on gun ownership. In fact, in his book, The America We Deserve, Trump laments the Columbine shooting and says “anyone could feel that it is too easy for Americans to get their hands on weapons. But nobody has a good solution.”

He also criticizes a fairly common Republican position on guns, calling for a ban on assault weapons and longer waiting periods. Trump writes:
“This is another issue where you see the extremes of the two existing major parties. Democrats want to confiscate all guns, which is a dumb idea because only the law-abiding citizens would turn in their guns and the bad guys would be the only ones left armed…The Republicans walk the NRA line and refuse even limited restrictions. I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun. With today’s internet technology we should be able to tell within 72 hours if a potential gun owner has a record.”
(David Matthews. "Donald Trump was not always such a strong supporter of gun ownership.
Fusion Media Network. Yahoo - ABC News. October 05, 2015.)

Donald Trump's flipflopping has some sites like Gun Sources asking questions like this: "So which Trump would actually show up to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue if elected?"

Guns and Problems -- The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Roxanna Green, whose child was killed two years ago, appeals directly to the camera: "My 9-year-old daughter was murdered in the Tucson shooting. I have one question for our political leaders: When will you find the courage to stand up to the gun lobby?"

Standing up to the gun lobby is seen by gun control advocates to mean not only banning assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines, but restoring some teeth to the ATF.

(Brian Naylor. "Gun Control Advocates Say ATF's Hands Have Been Tied."
National Public Radio. January 08, 2013.)

"The restrictions on ATF are absurd," says Jon Lowy of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. "They're not allowed to use computers in doing their trace work. They're not allowed to do more than one spot inspection on a gun dealer."

Other gun law issues faced by ATF agents include the following:

Congress refuses to allow a centralized gun database, so tracing a weapon used in a crime means a lot of legwork.
Former ATF agent William Vizzard says, "They have to contact the manufacturer or importer, who tells them, 'Oh, on July 14, 2009, we shipped that gun to Buckeye Sporting Goods, a wholesaler.' Then you contact Buckeye Sporting Goods, and they say, 'Oh, yeah, we received that gun four days later and we shipped it out to Billy Bob's Bait and Tackle Shop.' Then you go to Billy Bob and you say, 'OK, what do your records say?' "

* The lack of gun-trafficking statutes hampers charging those suspected of supplying guns to criminals.
"It's very frustrating when you see people that you know are criminals and buying guns for the criminal element, and you don't have ... a statute to prosecute them under,"  Bouchard says. "You have to be creative and try to make other statutes fit."

* Advocates believe the ATF should be allowed to inspect firearms dealers more than once a year, and that dealers should be required to keep track of their inventory.
Jon Lowy of the Brady Center says that more than 100,000 guns are missing from dealers' shelves.

According to Bouchard, "There's a great likelihood that most of those guns were sold off the books to criminals. (An) easy way to fix that is to simply require dealers to do an inventory every year of their stock. ATF is prevented from even requiring dealers to do that. That makes absolutely no sense."

So, Mr. Trump, I believe saying "No matter what you do about gun laws, you will have problems" is a copout and a sign you have sold out your personal convictions to the gun lobby. All of your blustering about every other politician except you being controlled by special interests, lobbyists, and donors is bullshit braggadocio coming from your own mega-egotistical mind. Indeed, you are a "puppet" grandstander.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Arming Yourself with Guns or with the "Armor of Light"?

On June 24, 2015, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley urged his colleagues on the floor to break the silence, stop the violence, and start the conversation about the gun violence epidemic in America.

Citing horrific tragedies at Charleston, South Carolina; at the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard; at Sandy Hook Elementary School; at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin; at a supermarket parking lot in Tucson, Arizona; at Fort Hood in Texas; at Virginia Tech; and at other places, Quigley asked, "When will enough be enough?"

Quigley continued ...

"When will we stand up and say: we may not be able to stop every crime, but we can stop some of them and at least minimize the damage of others?

"When will we realize and acknowledge that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries?

"When will we finally be able to have a national discussion about gun violence?"

(Mike Quigley. "Starting a Conversation on Gun Violence."
Speech U.S. House of Representatives. June 24, 2015.)

Like Quigley, I acknowledge no single law or set of laws can prevent every act of gun violence. It is impossible to stop every shooting. America needs much more -- a change in culture to influence criminal actions and violent behavior. Yet, oftentimes changing our culture begins with changing our laws. By enacting reasonable, middle-ground reforms, we can make a difference.

The congressman believes we must consider these actions that will reduce the frequency and deadliness of gun violence:

* We can make it more difficult for would-be assassins to access guns.

* We can ensure every gun in America is purchased after a background check, rather than only 60 percent of guns as is currently the case.

* We can crack down on the flow of illegal guns onto our streets by improving gun trafficking data.

* And, we can reduce the fatality rate by banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines that are designed exclusively for killing dozens of people at once.

Nothing can happen without a meaningful, purposeful conversation. Right wing, left wing -- conservative, liberal -- gun advocates, anti-gun advocates: our government must bring all of these groups together to find new, feasible actions that lead us once more to a kinder, gentler United States.

Put On the Armor of Light

"The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light."

(Romans 13:12)

The Armor of Light is Abigail Disney’s directorial debut. The film is set for release October 30, 2015. It follows the journey of an Evangelical minister trying to find the courage to preach about the growing toll of gun violence in America. 

The film tracks Reverend Rob Schenck, anti-abortion activist and fixture on the political far right, who breaks with orthodoxy by questioning whether being pro-gun is consistent with being pro-life.  Reverend Schenck is shocked and perplexed by the reactions of his long-time friends and colleagues who warn him away from this complex, politically explosive issue.

Along the way, Rev. Schenck meets Lucy McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, an unarmed teenager who was murdered in Florida and whose story has cast a spotlight on “Stand Your Ground” laws. McBath, also a Christian, decides to work with Schenck even though she is pro-choice. Lucy is on a difficult journey of her own, trying to make sense of her devastating loss while using her grief to effect some kind of viable and effective political action—where so many before her have failed.

Armor follows these unlikely allies through their trials of conscience, heartbreak and rejection, as they bravely attempt to make others consider America’s gun culture through a moral lens. The film is also a courageous look at our fractured political culture, and an assertion that it is, indeed, possible for people to come together across deep party lines to find common ground.

Watch the trailer for the film by clicking here:

2015 honors include -- Tribeca Film Festival, Montclair Film Festival, Traverse City Film Festival, Hamptons International Film Festival, AFI Docs Official Selection.

A Place To Start the Dialogue

As complicated as the matter of gun violence really is, people still seek short, direct answers. Jonathan Stray -- freelance journalist, former editor for the Associated Press, and instructor of computational journalism at Columbia University -- offers this article in the Atlantic Monthly for a short summary. Perhaps, it is a starting point for readers interested in stopping gun violence.

Stray's article is titled "Gun Violence in America: The 13 Key Questions (With 13 Concise Answers)" and it was printed February 4, 2013.

Click here to read the full Atlantic article:

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Victim of Gun Violence: U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords Lobbying For Gun Laws

We look back at the 2011 tragic shooting rampage of former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords once more after the horrible mass murder in Oregon.

On January 8, 2011, Giffords and eighteen others were shot during a constituent meeting held in a supermarket parking lot in Casas Adobes, Arizona, in the Tucson metropolitan area. Six people died, including federal District Court Chief Judge John Roll; Gabe Zimmerman, one of Rep. Giffords' staffers; and a nine-year-old girl, Christina-Taylor Green. Giffords was holding the meeting, called "Congress on Your Corner" in the parking lot of a Safeway store when Jared Lee Loughner drew a pistol and shot her in the head before proceeding to fire on other people.

Gabrielle Giffords was shot through the head at point-blank range and entered the hospital in critical condition. Within 38 minutes, Giffords underwent emergency surgery, and part of her skull was removed to prevent further brain damage caused by swelling. She was placed into a medically induced coma to allow her brain to rest.

As Giffords' status improved, she began simple physical therapy and music therapy. On January 21, 2011, less than two weeks after the attack, her condition was deemed sufficiently stable for her to be released to Houston's Memorial Hermann Medical Center. A few days later she was moved to the center's Institute for Rehabilitation and Research to undergo a program of physical therapy and rehabilitation.

In October, Giffords went to Asheville, North Carolina to engage in intensive rehabilitation treatments. She continued to struggle with language and had lost 50 percent of her vision in both eyes.

On January 22, 2012, Giffords announced that she would resign from her congressional seat in order to concentrate on her recovery, but promised to return to public service in the future. She submitted her resignation on January 25 on the floor of the House in an emotional appearance; colleagues and the House leadership offered their tributes to her courage and strength.

Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, wrote a book in 2014 titled Enough: Our Fight to Keep America Safe From Gun Violence "to rouse the long-overdue conversation" for gun control, a cause she has focused on since leaving office.

Giffords had owned a gun and had spoken frequently of the right of her constituents to carry guns before the tragedy. And, in the book, Gabrielle and Mark share their impassioned argument for responsible gun ownership and more responsible gun control laws, despite being gun owners and staunch supporters of the Second Amendment themselves.

Her book builds on an opinion piece she penned in 2013 in The New York Times after gun control legislation stalled in the U.S. Senate. This inaction came in the aftermath of the December 2012 shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut that left 20 first-graders and six staff members dead.

Giffords criticizes senators for failing to enact the measures, which she argued could have prevented future mass shootings, and she accuses them of being beholden to the gun rights lobby.

"'Enough' was one of the first words Gabby said to me after we learned about the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre," said Mark Kelly.

 "As Second Amendment supporters and gun owners ourselves, we hope our book rouses the long-overdue conversation our country needs to make responsible changes to our gun laws so that no more precious lives are lost," he added.

(David Schwartz. "Gabrielle Giffords, husband pen book urging gun laws to save lives."
Reuters. February 11, 2014.)

Giffords has been busy lobbying along with Kelly for tougher gun control laws, including expanded background checks and barring stalkers and domestic abusers from buying guns. They have formed a group aimed at curbing gun violence, Americans for Responsible Solutions, and have spent heavily on media advertisements and political campaigns in select states to press their efforts.

 Giffords's recovery has been widely chronicled since the shooting. She has even gone skydiving in southern Arizona to mark the third anniversary of the shooting. Giffords also told NBC's "Today" show she is working on her Spanish and again playing the French horn.

And, Giffords's work on gun control seems to be paying dividends.

Legislation addressing the role of gun violence in domestic abuse was signed by Delaware Governor Jack Markell on October 2, 2015.

Senate Bill 83 clarifies the process of relinquishing firearms after the issuance of a protection-from-abuse order, expands the definition of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, and adds federally-licensed firearms dealers located Delaware as an additional place for storage of relinquished firearms. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington.

Current law requires most Delawareans subject to protective orders issued by Family Court are already barred from owning or purchasing firearms. There is an exception in current law in the case of orders issued by a judge without allowing the accused to respond, which was the sticking point for the NRA.

The wrangling between lawmakers and the National Rifle Association, who was opposed to the original version of the bill, was over the section that would have required anyone issued with a PFA to turn over their firearms immediately. That language was removed in the substitute bill.

The legislation also expands the definition of “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” to include substantive dating relationships and people who have cohabited at the time of the offense or within 3 years prior to the offense.

Former Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had lobbied the lawmakers earlier this year, saying that gun violence is a "women's issue." In a written statement, Giffords says about this about Senate Bill 83:

“Today is a victory for common sense and a victory for safer communities. In the face of calls from Delaware’s domestic violence survivors and public safety officials, Republicans and Democrats came together to pass a law that helps keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and protect vulnerable people and their families. And with Governor Markell’s signature now affixed to this bipartisan proposal, Delaware will be a safer place to live.”

(John Offrendo. "Markell signs Giffords-backed domestic abuse gun bill." The News Journal -- Delaware Online. October 02, 2015.)

Friday, October 2, 2015

Why Gun Control Is Imperative

"Yesterday’s college slaughter in Oregon, which left at least 10 dead, was the 142nd shooting incident in a school or college since Sandy Hook. As there have been only over 1,000 days during that period, this means there’s been a shooting in an American school or college about once a week. In most of those, at least one person was injured, and in about one incident a month, at least one person was killed.

"In total, about 10,000 Americans are murdered with guns each year, or more than three times the number of people killed on 9/11. It’s equivalent to lining up and shooting three baseball teams each day. That doesn’t include suicides."

(Brett Arends. "The NRA’s profit soars as gun deaths mount." October 02, 2015.) 

Tragedy and gun violence -- it's all too common in 21st century America. We now mourn over the tragedy at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. Will the violence ever stop?

Still, NRA supporters rally to the cause even as more and more people support tighter gun control and restrictions on firearms. Each mass shooting fires larger debates on what or what not should be done to curb the gun violence. No one wants this horrendous climate of aggression to continue; however, the NRA continues to be opposed to any limitations on their precious Second Amendment interpretation of rights.

The NRA, while courting gun advocates, remains a powerful lobby with its change from a group that once primarily promoted sport shooting to an organization that touts the need for guns to maintain security.

Brett Arends -- author, financial columnist, and winner of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers award -- writes:

"Membership dues (NRA) jumped as supporters rallied to the cause. So did profits. And executive pay ran into the millions. Not bad for a charity that is exempt from taxes.... The debate about gun control has produced no concrete action. But it has shaken up gun supporters, who have rushed out to buy more weapons and sent more money to the NRA. They were already in a panic after President Obama got re-elected."

Please read Arends' full article by clicking here:

In the wake of yet another mass murder, rigid fingers of blame point at access to guns, the mentally unstable, lax weapons laws, insufficient defense measures, and the frenzy of media exposure for the assailant.

One thing cannot be denied: The present climate of unspeakable violence in the United States has been directly exacerbated by the availability of guns as these weapons end up in the hands of deadly criminals.

There is a compelling argument for gun control. In a poll by Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in 2013, more than 90 percent of U.S. voters supported background checks for all gun buyers. A majority of those surveyed supported stricter national gun control laws. Fifty-six percent were for a ban on the sale of assault weapons, and the same percentage supported a ban on the sale of high-capacity magazines, defined as those holding more than 10 rounds.

(Daniel Trotta. "Over 90 percent of Americans support gun background checks: poll."
Reuters. February 07, 2013.)

Congress would need to approve those initiatives and background checks. Mark Glazer of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, "The next step is tapping the extraordinary outrage in the country today and channeling it in a useful direction -- mainly at the senators who voted no and declined to do what 90 percent of the American public asked them to do. We'll do whatever it takes."

Gun advocates say murderers can commit heinous acts just as easily with other weapons of choice such as knives. They love to claim "Guns don't kill people. People kill people."

Of course, a murderer can often kill one person or two with a knife before being stopped. Yet, achieving a large death count in a mass murder requires a gun(s). It follows that people who are worried about preventing unnecessary deaths want to limit the ability of those who possess unspeakable hatred to kill others -- naturally, they want to restrict the sheer amount of damage these deranged individuals can do by legally or illegally acquiring a gun. Sheer numbers in comparison of all deaths? In 2009-2011, for every American knife homicide there were five gun homicides.

Amanda Marcotte, blogger and author of It's a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments, refutes the popular philosophy of gun advocates: "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

Marcotte cites the fact that no mass shootings in America during the past 30 years have been stopped by an armed civilian. In 1982, an armed civilian successfully killed a shooter, but it was only after he committed his crime. And, this is in a country where there are as many guns as people and where fully a third of people are armed.

(Amanda Marcotte. "4 Pro-Gun Arguments We're Sick of Hearing."
Rolling Stone. October 01, 2015.) 

Please read Marcotte's full article by clicking here:

How feasible would it be to act proactively and find deranged individuals before they act out their sick crimes? The National Institute of Mental Health reported in 2013 there were an estimated 43.8 million adults aged 18 or older in the U.S. with mental illness (AMI) in the past year. This represents 18.5 percent of all U.S. adults -- or 1 in 5 of American adults, most with no violent tendencies. Any check of gun ownership would be a costly, monumental task.

Ashby Jones of The Wall Street Journal writes: “Among the requirements to deny a person a gun: The buyer has to be considered a danger to himself or others. A simple diagnosis of mental illness isn't enough to prohibit a firearm sale.”

Still, Tod Robberson of the Dallas Morning News said many recent shootings only add to the list of national tragedies where a mentally unstable individual gained access to a gun and used it to kill. “If we continue to sell guns in a reckless way that allows them to fall into the hands of people who, we all can agree, shouldn’t have access to them,” he wrote, “then we will be revisiting these tragedies again and again in the future.”

(Teresa Welsh. "Views You Can Use: The Challenge of Mental Illness and Guns."
U.S. News. April 04, 2014.)

What kind of law is effective and sensible gun control? New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo pushed for a gun law known as the SAFE Act after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. The law made it easier to take guns away from people who have been deemed mentally unstable. It also bans assault weapons.

Cuomo defended the New York State law, but also said that the number of people banned from owning firearms since the law took effect in 2013 could be too low.

Cuomo said that compared to the roughly 140,000 people in the state hospitalized for mental illness in a year, 34,500 seemed to be a conservative number. “I’ve heard concerns that the number is too low, because obviously there are about 110,000 people who are institutionalized, but yet could still get a gun,” Mr. Cuomo said.

It is unclear how many of those hospitalized were involuntarily committed, and therefore barred from buying guns after being entered into a federal database.

(Anemona Hartocollis and Thomas Kaplan. "Cuomo Defends Law Denying Guns to Mentally Ill People. The New York Times. October 19, 2014.)

The SAFE Act "made the penalty for illegal guns much, much higher, which is something that the gun owners were arguing for for a long time," Cuomo said. "The gun owners' argument is that it's not the legal owners, it's the illegal gun owners."

Leah Gunn Barrett, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, said there is "ample evidence" that strong laws reduce death and injury from guns. New York has the fourth-lowest rate of gun deaths in the country, she said.

In addition, supporters of the law now say they would be open to revisiting the law, particularly to make it stronger. Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, D-Manhattan, said it could be strengthened in domestic-violence cases, as well as to add a safe-storage provision.

"It was a very good bill, but no bill gets the law perfect," Kavanagh said, "and there may be changes that we want to make, and more importantly there may be additional things we can do to keep New Yorkers safe."

(Joseph Spector. "NY SAFE Act reform on the table." January 09, 2015.)

Citation For Stricter Gun Control

A recent study by Harvard Medical School and School of Public Health, in conjunction with Boston Children’s Hospital, provides evidence that stricter gun control laws work in reducing gun-related homicides and suicides.

States with stronger gun laws experienced significantly lower levels of deaths involving firearms than their counterparts with loose gun laws. 

The strong correlations between firearm laws and homicide and suicide rates are definitely new talking points for gun control advocates. Further, opponents of gun control have often used the argument that the effectiveness of gun control laws has not been proven. This study, if followed by others, may take away this line of reasoning.

The study, by researchers at Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard School of Public Health, uses a measure of state-by-state "legislative strength" of gun control policies tracked by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, including measures to:

(1) curb firearm trafficking;
(2) strengthen background checks on purchasers of firearms beyond those required by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act;
(3) ensure child safety;
(4) ban military style assault weapons; and
(5) restrict guns in public places.

It conducted a detailed statistical analysis (via a clustered Poisson regression) to examine the effect gun control laws on firearms fatalities.

Gun-related deaths were measured per 100,000 people for both homicides and suicides based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, controlling for other factors thought to be associated with gun deaths including age, sex, race and ethnicity, poverty, unemployment, college education, population density, other violence-related deaths, and firearm ownership.

In addition to the general relationship between gun safety laws and firearm deaths, the paper also suggests that increasing the number of gun safety laws increases the reductions in firearm related deaths. So the benefits just get bigger with more laws.

The authors also identify background checks as the most important type of law. And while gun rights groups have already come out in force to criticize the study's methods and lack of cause and effect conclusions, he adds that "the authors are very careful in specifying their models and have done as rigorous a paper as possible with existing data."

(Eric W. Fleegler, MD, MPH; Lois K. Lee, MD, MPH; Michael C. Monuteaux, ScD; David Hemenway, PhD; Rebekah Mannix, MD, MPH. "Firearm Legislation and Firearm-Related Fatalities in the United States." JAMA Internal Medicine; 173(9). 2013.)

Please read the JAMA full article by clicking here:

Making a Sea Change

A sea change is defined as "a profound or notable transformation." Americans have made sea changes about drunken driving, cigarette smoking, and many other obvious threats to health and safety. They have realized that these things threaten our society and kill innocent citizens. They have responded by declaring the need for reform.

I believe the proliferation of guns requires an immediate sea change. We can no longer accept mass murders by guns as things that are just "bound to happen." It is imperative that the gun lobby and the gun control advocates and, yes, the NRA, work together with the aid of recent research to compromise and pass new legislation that will evoke a new, much-needed change that transforms our American culture from a group of people that sees gun violence as routine to a united force that is willing to overhaul gun legislation.

By one count, our current President has issued statements following at least 15 mass killings. It is time... no, it is past time to stop being at odds concerning guns in America. The problem of gun violence exists, and we -- conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats -- must now face it with new resolve and exert a better means of control.

I agree with President Obama as he spoke to the nation after the Oregon massacre. He said, “So tonight, as those of us who are lucky enough to hug our kids a little closer are thinking about the families who aren’t so fortunate, I’d ask the American people to think about how they can get our government to change these laws, and to save these lives and let these people grow up.”

Monday, September 28, 2015

Mexican "Farm-to-Arm Suppy Chain" of Heroin Dooms Ohio Children

"Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, whose office has focused on the heroin epidemic, said he was astonished at how easily pill addicts made the switch.

“"There used to be some psychological barrier to heroin,' DeWine said. 'That barrier is gone today.'

"In Montgomery County, home to Dayton, heroin-related deaths have skyrocketed 225 percent since 2011. Last year, this county of 540,000 residents reported 127 fatal heroin overdoses – among the highest rates in the nation, according to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“'The coroner can’t keep up,” said Robert Carlson, an ethnographer at Wright State University in Dayton who helps track overdoses. 'There’s not enough room to keep all the bodies.'”

(Todd C. Frankel. "Pellets, planes and the new frontier: How Mexican cartels fuel the American heroin epidemic." The Washington Post. September 25, 2015.)
Mexican cartels with an almost corporate discipline have overtaken the U.S. heroin trade. They grow and process the drug themselves, and the cartels have been increasingly replacing their traditional black tar with an innovative high-quality powder with mass market appeal: It can be smoked or snorted by users as well as shot up by hard-core addicts.

Reporter Todd Frankel called the operation "a sophisticated farm-to-arm supply chain." The delivery system has helped heroin to surpass cocaine and meth and become America's Number 1 drug threat for the first time.

Frankel tells of one courier drug mule's experience ...

"He practiced with baby carrots, swallowing them whole, easing them down his throat with yogurt. Later came the heroin pellets, each loaded with 14 grams of powder, machine-wrapped in wax paper and thick latex. Long gone were the days of swallowing hand-knotted, drug-filled condoms. The Mexican drug trafficking organizations were always perfecting their craft.

"On this trip, Gerardo Vargas would swallow 71 pellets – a full kilo, just over two pounds, enough for as many as 30,000 hits at $10 a pop on American streets. And so before he set off on his 3,900-mile journey from Uruapan, Mexico, Vargas was given the rules: No soda, because it could erode the pellets’ wrapping. No orange juice, either. Drink only water. He was told which airports to avoid, which places to go, his every move orchestrated by his handler in Mexico.

"And don’t eat anything, he was told, until reaching the final destination: Dayton, Ohio, one of the new frontiers of the American heroin epidemic."

(Todd C. Frankel. "Pellets, planes and the new frontier: How Mexican cartels fuel the American heroin epidemic." The Washington Post. September 25, 2015.)

Frankel called Vargas "the perfect drug mule. Vargas was 22 but looked younger. He’d been born in California, moving to Mexico at age 12 after his father was deported, so he possessed a U.S. passport. He also had a spotless record, perfect English and a desperate need for cash: His father had already lost one eye to diabetes. He’d been offered $6 a gram. This job would earn him nearly $6,000.

Vargas had been carefully trained to avoid accidents such as having to use the bathroom unexpectedly or having the pellets burst inside his body.

Vargas began his journeys with visits to a gray stucco house in Uruapan, a city of 315,000 people in the state of Michoacan, which sprawls west from Mexico City to the Pacific Ocean. But Vargas knew almost nothing about Dayton, beyond what seemed to be an insatiable demand for the secret stash he carried.

As If Heroin Is Not Bad Enough

Fentanyl-related drug overdose deaths increased nearly 500 percent across Ohio in 2014, according to preliminary data released recently by the Ohio Department of Health.

The increased presence of fentanyl, an opioid that is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin, was a significant contributor in a nearly 18 percent increase of overall overdose deaths in 2014. Of the record-breaking 2,482 overdose deaths, 502 of them involved fentanyl.

Dr. Mark Hurst, medical director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. “As they build up tolerance to drugs they’re using, they may progress, for example, from prescription pain pills, to heroin, to fentanyl, which is often cut into heroin.”

Unintentional drug overdose remained the leading cause of injury-related death for Ohioans in 2014. The majority of overdose deaths, 59 percent, involved more than one drug.

(Jona Ison. "Ohio drug overdose deaths up sharply." Newark Advocate. September 25, 2015.)

And, Even Worse -- The Ohio Children Suffer
Heroin is increasingly being cited in child custody cases, recent data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services shows. In 2010, 3,726 cases noted heroin as a factor. That number almost doubled by 2013 to 6,827. This is an 83 percent increase from three years earlier.

Jennifer Justice, deputy director for child welfare for ODJFS, said, “There are higher numbers of kids and families that have heroin use in their home. Addiction of any kind is a serious problem. It’s hard. It’s hard for the parents. Children can be at risk of harm depending on the severity of the addiction."

Justice continued: “When parents are in the trenches of addiction, they tend to choose a drug over their children."

(Chris Stewart and Arundi Venkayya. "Heroin carving a destructive path." 
Dayton Daily News. July 12, 2014.)                                             

“These kids will have been through so much before they came to us that they’re going to need a lot of treatment themselves,” said Governmental Affairs Director for the Public Children Services Association of Ohio Gayle Channing Tenenbaum. She has been  highlighting the numbers as she lobbies state lawmakers for an additional $20 million for more child-custody caseworkers across Ohio.

According to Tenenbaum, the average stay in foster care is 70 days, but that number jumps to 300 days for children of parents addicted to drugs or alcohol.

As far back as five years ago, Clermont County cited substance abuse in child abuse cases. "Just about every week (2010), we are called about another child born to a heroin-addicted mother,” stated CPS Intake Department Supervisor Susan Grabowski. “This is a situation that is impacting counties and cities across the country.”

“Our caseworkers are finding that the heroin-abuse situation is not only impacting the parents of these children, in many cases the grandparents are also addicted,” said Grabowski.  She said there is a critical need for more foster parents in the county to provide stability and guidance to those children who cannot go home.

("Clermont Facing Increase in Child Abuse Cases Linked to Heroin." Press Release. October 11, 2010.) 

In Coshocton County child custody cases have increased 142 percent within the last 14 years, which officials said is mostly a result of the drug and alcohol abuse that plagues the area. There, officials have neither the budget nor the staff to effectively respond to the children in need.

Much has changed since children services merged with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services-Coshocton in 2000, Director Mindy Fehrman said. Namely, in 2000, most of the children in her agency's custody were teenagers. In 2014, the majority consisted of younger children.

The reason: The majority of parents whose children are in the agency's custody have drug and alcohol issues, Fehrman stated.

As a result, children are neglected, forgotten and left to fend for themselves. Further, without their parents there to guide them, children services has seen more children demonstrating inappropriate sexual behavior, among others things. Fehrman said, "It can, and often does, impact their intimate relationships forever."

Coshocton County Prosecutor Jason Given confirmed that the large majority of child abuse cases there generally have some kind of drug abuse linked into them from the perpetrator's side.

(Eric Lagatta. "Official: Custody cases climb with drug, alcohol abuse."
Coshocton Tribune. May 24, 2015.)

In Geauga County, the number of children in the county’s custody due to heroin or opiate abuse has increased 400 percent since 2011, according to a Children’s Services Committee Fact Sheet.

Geauga County Jobs & Family Services Director Craig Swenson said that the number of children in the agency’s custody has significantly increased over the past four years. In 2011, the average was 27 children per month. In 2014, the average was 66 and Swenson said the number ranges from 50 to 80 children in their custody at any given time.

While the number of children in the agency’s custody has risen, so too has placement costs, which Swenson said has tripled since 2011. He said the agency is expecting the costs to be over $1.3 million in 2015.

So, Geauga County voters will decide in November whether to approve a five-year, 0.5-mill additional levy for child services through the Geauga County Job & Family Services. If passed, the levy is expected to generate about $1,523,206 per year for the agency and would cost property owners $17.50 a year per $100,000 valuation. Funds generated from the levy can be used only for child protective services, child abuse and neglect prevention and foster/adoptive services.

(Andrew Cass. "November 2015 election: Geauga County Jobs & Family Services seeks 0.5-mill additional levy." The News-Herald. September 27, 2015.)

Answering Those Who Claim Drug Abuse Has No Innocent Victims

It must become the duty of all Ohio citizens to help stop the opiate epidemic. The generations affected by this abuse will continue to suffer dire consequences unless more is done to lower the insane numbers of those who are dying and becoming disabled because of the substance.

At the current rate, child abuse and neglect due to substance abuse will continue to rise to even more wildly unimaginable levels. Addicts are fostering a new generation of people with potentially severe physical and mental disabilities. We, as responsible human beings, must dedicate ourselves to saving our children, no matter how much some would rather complain about how all the blame for abuse rests with the addict.

Saving The Children 

Poem by James Walter Orr

We cut the budget to the bone
With edicts handed from the throne,
And leave the children all alone,
While we, the children's fate bemoan.
We do not think that it can be
That one can know, that one can see
That all our 'generosity'
Is posturing pomposity.

We throw more poor folk on the street
And pad the rich man's bank account.
We slap our knee, and think it's neat
And hire another man to count.
We all just watch, and make no fuss.
Forget the kids, just coddle us.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Bloodmoon and the Supermoon Tetrad Arrives -- What It Is

"I hear hurricanes a blowing.
I know the end is coming soon.
I fear rivers overflowing.
I hear the voice of rage and ruin.
Don't go around tonight,
Well, it's bound to take your life,
There's a bad moon on the rise.
All right!"

"Bad Moon Rising" by Creedence Clearwater Revival

It's September 27, 2015, and a supermoon lunar eclipse will occur at nightfall. A sizeable moon, referred to as a “supermoon,” happens because in its orbit, the moon will be closer to the earth than at any other time, just about 385,000 kilometres away. The closeness will make the moon appear up to 14 percent larger than usual.

The lunar eclipse part of this phenomenon is caused by the Earth inserting itself between the sun and the moon. As this happens, the Earth casts its shadow on the face of the moon.

The “blood moon” effect is caused by the fiery ring around the earth with the sun directly behind it, its shadowed face turned to the moon. The thin glimmer from the sunrise-sunset encircling the darkened earth, hits the moon surface and reflects back as a reddish glow. The moon takes on the color of blood.

The last lunar eclipse of this magnitude occurred in 1982, and the next one of a similar magnitude will be in 2033. A lesser lunar eclipse will come in 2018.

Omens of the Blood Moon

The idea of a "blood moon" serving as an omen of the coming of the end times comes from the Book of Joel before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes." The Book of Joel is part of the Hebrew Bible and is part of a group of twelve prophetic books known as the Twelve Minor Prophets.

"I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.".

(Joel 2:30-31)

This phrase is again mentioned by Saint Peter during Pentecost, as recorded in Acts, although Peter says that date, not some future date, was the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy.

"The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord."

 (Acts 2:20)

The blood moon also appears in the book of Revelation chapter 6.

"And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;

"And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.

"And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.  

"And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;  

"And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:  

"For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?"

(Revelations 6:12-17)

Stories abound about how the supermoon of September 27 will be enormous in the sky, that it could trigger earthquakes, that the blood red color is a sign of doom, and the fact that this one is the fourth in a series called a "tetrad" must mean some kind of apocalyptic ending. A tetrad is a term for four total lunar eclipses happening at six-month intervals.

The number of "blood moons" seen in the past 18 months sparked some conspiracy theories about possible dangers to humanity. In 2014, according to skywatching columnist Joe Rao, online rumors drew a link between the eclipses and biblical prophecies of the apocalypse -- a theory also popularized in a book called Four Blood Moons by evangelical pastor John Hagee (Worthy Publishing, 2013).

Hagee claims that history has shown the last blood moon in a tetrad signals a time period of tragedy. He claims that when a tetrad occurs there is “a sense in the world that God is trying to communicate with us in a supernatural way.”

(Elizabeth Howell. "Four Blood Moons: Supermoon Eclipse Will Cap Epic Lunar Tetrad."
Yahoo News. September 24, 2015.)

Irvin Baxter runs Endtime Ministries in Plano, Texas. He says, “Some prophecy teachers are declaring boldly that this tetrad just ahead signals that something is getting ready to happen, which will change the world forever."

God has often used “the heavens” for sending signs to mankind, Baxter says. He quotes Genesis, in which God says there should be lights in heaven and says of those lights: “Let them be for signs.”

Baxter warns that previous tetrads have had stark consequences for Jewish people. The Spanish inquisition took place before the tetrad of 1493-94. The tetrad of 1949-50 occurred just after the founding of Israel. The tetrad of 1967-1968 occurred as the Six-Day War was fought in Jerusalem.

(Adam Gabbatt. "'Blood moon' brings prophecies of end times – but Nasa says not to worry." Guardian News. September 27, 2015.)

Last month NASA shot down reports that appeared on alternative news sites claiming an asteroid would hit Earth on September 28, “wiping out most of the Americas.”

Mark Blitz, who leads the El Shaddai Ministries in Washington, agrees the asteroid story was rubbish; he says the end will instead be heralded by the mother of all earthquakes after a blood moon prophecy.

“The number has more than doubled over the last 10 years,” he told his devotees recently. “It was prophesied that there would be earthquakes at increased levels before the return of the Messiah and they were to be likened to birth pangs. … With the increase in activity and the increase in magnitude I definitely see it as being but another sign along with the signs in the heavens that we are at the door.”

Blitz uses Revelation to support his theory. He warns that the dreaded Four Horsemen of the Acocalypse will use these events to reveal their individual missions. 

(Kara Gilmour. "Super Blood Moon 2015 Prophecy Unveils Apocalypse On Sept 28."
NewsOXY. September 25, 2015.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Why You Should Vote "No" On Legalizing Recreational Marijuana in Ohio

Election day in Ohio is drawing near. Passage of Issue 3 would grant monopoly rights for the production and sale of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes in Ohio. I believe whether you are a voter who has never have smoked pot, who has smoked pot at some time in your life, or who smokes pot now, you should consider that voting "yes" endorses a poorly tested and potentially dangerous product. I feel you should vote "no" on Issue 3. I will give you some good reasons.

I would be in favor of a proposal allowing medicinal marijuana; however, the recreational use of the substance is a vice that can only aggravate health and work and concerns in the Buckeye State. Passage of Issue 3 presents risks that voters cannot allow.

Rich Thompson, director of political programs at the Ohio Chamber, said there are some major concerns with Issue 3. According to Thompson, the large number marijuana sales outlets possible (1,159), which is three times the number of state liquor stores in Ohio and even more than McDonald’s and Starbucks locations in the state, will practically make marijuana "available on every street corner."

The Effect of Issue 3 on the Workplace

Thompson also believes workforce safety, with businesses likely unable to ban marijuana use in the workplace, could be a huge problem. Here are some examples of potential difficulties in the workplace:

* Litigation will be forced to define when and where marijuana can be used, and what businesses can do to maintain workplace safety.

* Workplace marijuana use would decrease productivity and lead to an increase in accidents, injuries, and absenteeism.

* In Ohio communities that already face problems finding workers who can pass a drug test, legalizing marijuana would exacerbate that problem.

* Workers’ compensation issues could also arise for workplace injuries caused by an employee impaired because of marijuana use.

* Issue 3 seeks to specifically list 10 pieces of real estate in Ohio’s constitution as the only property on which marijuana can be grown for commercial purposes. And, these pieces of real estate are already owned by the handful of wealthy investors in the Issue 3 campaign who hope to turn their investment into a billion dollar a year industry. This constitutes and exclusive monopoly.

(Dave Mosier. "Ohio Chamber opposes marijuana issue. The Van Wert Independent.
September 23, 2015.) 

The Effect of Issue 3 on Children

Most alarming about Issue 3 is the threat to our children and youth.

Issue 3 would allow for the sale of brownies, cookies, gummy bears and many other common food items that would be packed with dangerously high levels of THC. These products are inviting to children and have led to severe problems in those states which allow recreational marijuana.

According to Children’s Hospital Colorado, admissions of children under the age of 12 who ingested edible marijuana spiked sharply in 2014.

But the effect on children is not just limited to food. State Representative Bob McColley says since marijuana’s legalization in Colorado in 2012, the state has seen a 56 percent increase in overall marijuana usage among children aged 12-17. The same result is likely to happen in Ohio.

And what about the effect of legalized marijuana on youthful drivers? In Colorado there has been a 32 percent increase in marijuana-related traffic deaths since legalization.

(Rob McColley. "State Rep. Rob McColley: Marijuana legalization would be disastrous for Ohio." September 19, 2015.)

Consider Youth and Vote Against Issue 3

I believe you should share this information with your children. Here are some facts for youth about marijuana from the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

Marijuana can be addictive.

Not everyone who smokes marijuana will become addicted—that depends on a whole bunch of factors, including your genes, the age you start using, whether you also use other drugs, your relationships with family and friends, success in school, and so on. Repeated marijuana use can lead to addiction, which means that people have trouble controlling their drug use and often cannot stop even though they want to. Research shows that about 9 percent, or about 1 in 11, of those who use marijuana will become addicted. This rate increases to 17 percent, or about 1 in 6, in people who start in their teens, and goes up to 25 to 50 percent among daily users.

(Anthony J, Warner LA, Kessler RC. Comparative epidemiology of dependence on tobacco, alcohol, controlled substances, and inhalants: basic findings from the National Comorbidity Survey. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 1994;2:244-268.)

(Hall W, Degenhardt L. Adverse health effects of non-medical cannabis use. Lancet.

(Hall W. The adverse health effects of cannabis use: what are they, and what are their implications for policy? Int J of Drug Policy. 2009;20:458-466.)

(Lopez-Quintero C, Pérez de los Cobos J, Hasin DS, et al. Probability and predictors of transition from first use to dependence on nicotine, alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine: results of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). Drug Alcohol Depend. 2011;115(1-2):120-130.)

After alcohol, marijuana is the drug most often linked to car accidents, including those involving deaths.

A nationwide study of deadly crashes found that 36.9 percent of drivers who tested positive for drugs had used marijuana. Marijuana affects skills required for safe driving—alertness, concentration, coordination, and reaction time. Marijuana makes it hard to judge distances and react to signals and sounds on the road.

(Wilson FA, Stimpson JP, Pagán, JA. Fatal crashes from drivers testing positive for drugs in the U.S., 1993-2010. Public Health Rep. 2014;129:342-350.)

Marijuana is linked to school failure.

Marijuana’s negative effects on attention, memory, and learning can last for days and sometimes weeks—especially if you use it often. Someone who smokes marijuana daily may have a "dimmed-down" brain most or all of the time. Compared with teens who don’t use, students who smoke marijuana tend to get lower grades and are more likely to drop out of high school.

Research even shows that it can lower your IQ if you smoke it regularly in your teen years. Also, longtime marijuana users report lower life satisfaction, memory and relationship problems, poorer mental and physical health, lower salaries, and less career success.

(McCaffrey DF, Pacula RL, Han B, Ellickson P. Marijuana use and high school dropout: the influence of unobservables. Health Econ. 2010;19(11):1281-1299.)

(Meier MH, Caspi A, Ambler A, et al. Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2012;109:E2657-2664.)

(Zwerling C, Ryan J, Orav E. The efficacy of preemployment drug screening for marijuana and cocaine in predicting employment outcome. JAMA. 1990;264(20):2639-2643.)

High doses of marijuana can cause psychosis or panic when you're high.

Some people experience an acute psychotic reaction (disturbed perceptions and thoughts, paranoia) or panic attacks while under the influence of marijuana. This reaction usually goes away as the drug’s effects wear off. Scientists don't yet know if marijuana use causes lasting mental illness, although it can worsen psychotic symptoms in people who already have schizophrenia, a severe mental illness with symptoms such as hallucinations, paranoia, and disorganized thinking. It can increase the risk of long-lasting psychosis in some people.

During a 10-year study of 1,923 participants aged 14 to 24 in Germany, researchers found participants who had no psychotic symptoms and had never tried marijuana when the study began and then started using marijuana had nearly double the risk of experiencing psychotic symptoms in the future.

(Rebecca Kuepper, et al. "Continued cannabis use and risk of incidence and persistence of psychotic symptoms: 10 year follow-up cohort study." BMJ. December 31, 2010.)

Smoking marijuana will not make a young person "cool" or better equipped to handle the stresses of maturation. Getting high is merely a chemical escape from reality and from the problems of life. There are much better manners in which to handle social issues than to develop a habit of lighting up a joint. No responsible parent wants their child to become a stoner, and the claims of recreational legalization having no effect upon children who are, by law, unable to consume the substance are simply untrue.

Speaking To Those In Scioto County

I agree that alcohol is potentially more dangerous to youth than marijuana. I have seen firsthand the destruction and death caused by alcohol addiction. Yet, to me, the old cliché of "two wrongs don't make a right" applies to this vote. We, in Scioto County, are considered an addictive population. Add to current fights against alcohol abuse and heroin abuse the potential risks of legalizing recreation marijuana, and we will open ever wider the gates to injury and health problems for Scioto youth.

Let's stick with the facts from the "Monitoring the Future" Pride Surveys -- current information that is part of Ohio's 2015 Conference on Opiates and Other Drugs. The survey is a part of statistics compiled by the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities and Mission Possible 2015. Here are some figures we all -- no matter what our feelings about the legalization issue as it relates to adults -- must consider:

Past 30 days Substance Use by Teens in Scioto County vs. United States (2013)

Alcohol 25.5% of teens in Scioto County used compared to 23.3% in the United States
Cigarettes 19.2% of teens in Scioto County used compared to 7% in the United States
Marijuana 17.3% of teens in Scioto Country used compared to 14.76% in the United States

In the Past 30 Days, Scioto County Teens ...
Used alcohol at a rate 9% higher than the national average
Smoked cigarettes at a rate 93% higher than the national average
Used marijuana at a rate 15% higher than the national average

Drinking, using marijuana, and smoking cigarettes are all illegal activities for teens, yet these are the facts about their current use. Teens in Scioto use these substances now, and at an average rate higher than teens in the entire country. Consider that all three become habits, all three are vices, and the use of all three depends upon the environment of the adolescent -- by the use of their friends and by the use of their loved ones. Inescapable evidence? Ironclad in my experience.
I don't give a damn about selfish reasons to get high promoted by Responsible Ohio and by proponents of recreational legalization -- even about the logical ones that apply to the vote. Why? Because we must protect the future generation by teaching them by better examples. Protecting your precious freedom to get high from a natural substance will selfishly show your unconcern for society.

Just do this: Take a trip to a local grade school and look into the beautiful, lively eyes of the young students there. Watch how they enjoy thoroughly reality and truly experience joy in living sober, creative lives. And then, imagine those same pupils in a stoned, chemically induced haze. Do you want to present even more reason for those young children to smoke dope? Vote no. This is a no-brainer. Do it for the children.