Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Boy Scouts Of America Are Considering Ending Their Ban On Gay Members

via Business Insider: 

The Boy Scouts of America are considering ending their ban on gay members and leaders, Pete Williams at NBC News reports.

boy scouts

The youth organization has maintained an across-the-board ban on gay members in spite of high-profile protests from gay Eagle Scouts and rising public pressure for years. The ban was even tried — and upheld — in a Supreme Court lawsuit.

According to the NBC report, the policy would eliminate the ban from the national organization’s rules but would allow local sponsoring organizations to decide for themselves whether to allow gay scouts.

On the local level, different troops have different chartering organizations, many of which are churches and other religious organizations. Lifting the ban nationally would push the issue to the local level and still allow individual troops to ban gay members.

Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Scouts, told NBC that “the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with their organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs.”

Two corporate CEOs who sit on the board of the BSA — Randall Stephenson of AT&T and James Turley of Ernst & Young — have worked to end the ban. Stephenson is next in line to become the national chairman of the Boy Scouts.

Most international affiliates of the Boy Scouts allow gay members. The Girl Scouts of America has had a full nondiscrimination policy for years.

The BSA has lost sponsorships — most recently from the Merck Foundation — due to their reticence on the issue.

 

‘Obamacare’ to hit smokers with huge penalties

via RT: 

AFP Photo / Justin Sullivan

Smokers, beware: tobacco penalties under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act could subject millions of smokers to fees costing thousands of dollars, making healthcare more expensive for them than Americans with other unhealthy habits.

The Affordable Care Act, which critics have also called “Obamacare”, could subject smokers to premiums that are 50 percent higher than usual, starting next Jan 1. Health insurers will be allowed to charge smokers penalties that overweight Americans or those with other health conditions would not be subjected to.

A 60-year-old smoker could pay penalties as high as $5,100, in addition to the premiums, the Associated Press reports. A 55-year-old smoker’s penalty could reach $4,250. The older a smoker is, the higher the penalty will be.

Nearly one in every five U.S. adults smokes, with a higher number of low-income people addicted to the unhealthy habit. Even though smokers are more likely to develop heart disease, cancer and lung problems and would therefore require more health care, the penalties might devastate those who need help the most – including retirees, older Americans, and low-income individuals.

“We don’t want to create barriers for people to get health care coverage,” California state Assemblyman Richard Pan told AP. “We want people who are smoking to get smoking cessation treatment.”

Nearly 450,000 US residents die of smoking-related diseases each year, making the unhealthy habit a serious concern for lawmakers. One legislator is trying to criminalize smoking in his state, while others have raised taxes on cigarettes and the Obama administration has tried to inflict hefty fines upon smokers’ premiums.

Karen Pollitz, a former consumer protection regular, told AP that no insurers want to provide coverage for Americans who have been smoking for decades, and that the penalties might prompt people to abandon the habit.

“You would have the flexibility to discourage them,” she told AP.

But quitting is not easy, and charging older smokers up to three times as much as younger ones could make it difficult for them to seek care in the first place. A 60-year-old smoker charged with the penalty could be paying about $8,411 per year for health insurance, which is about 24 percent of a $35,000 income and is considered “unaffordable” under federal law.

“The effect of the smoking (penalty) allowed under the law would be that lower-income smokers could not afford health insurance,” said Richard Curtis, president of the Institute for Health Policy Solutions.

Ultimately, the law that is meant to make health care more affordable could have the opposite effect on older smokers at a time when smoking-related illnesses usually arise.

Man arrested after posting Facebook photo of baby & gun

via Fox 19:

COLERAIN TOWNSHIP, OH (FOX19) –

Domonic Gaines

Police have arrested a Colerain man after he posted a photo of himself on Facebook holding his 1-year-old daughter and a BB gun.

Domonic Gaines, 22, was arrested after the incident which occurred at his home on Suliner Drive Sunday.

According to reports, police initially believed that Gaines was holding a handgun in the photo. However, police say the gun in question turned out to be a BB gun.

The photo depicted Gaines holding his daughter, Paradise Gaines, along with the BB gun. Police say that the close proximity of the gun to the child created a substantial risk of physical harm.

Police say they found the BB gun at the residence after the arrest was made.

“It’s really been blown out of proportion,” said Gaines’ father, Wilson Dykes.

Dykes claims that it was the baby’s maternal mother who saw the photo and called the police.

Gaines was arranged on Monday morning on Child Endangerment charges. He’s being held without bond in the Hamilton County Jail.

Dolce & Gabbana Plans To Release Perfume For Babies

via Business Insider: 

Luxury fashion house Dolce & Gabbana plans to release perfume for babies.

 

That’s right. Baby perfume.

“This perfume is also inspired by the smell of a baby and is ‘designed to cuddle and pamper every little boy and girl’, which means it’s fine for delicate skin, is unisex, but ultimately, mimics the smell of a baby’s skin,” Grazia UK reported.

The packaging is orange, according to Grazia.

While babies are already known for their sweet smell, history has shown that parents will shell out for just about anything.

Most Expensive Places To Have A Baby Rhode Island

A New Mexico Lawmaker Wants To Criminalize Post-Rape Abortions

via Business Insider: 

A Republican legislator in New Mexico is seeking to force pregnant rape victims to carry the pregnancy to term, claiming the fetus could be used as “evidence” at trial.

rep cathrynn bown

Rep. Cathrynn Brown’s bill would charge a rape victim who sought an abortion with a third-degree felony for “tampering with evidence,” The Huffington Post reported Wednesday.

“Tampering with evidence consists of destroying, changing, hiding, placing or fabricating any physical evidence with intent to prevent the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of any person or to throw suspicion of the commission of a crime upon another,” House Bill 206 reads.

“Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime,” it adds.

And while the bill is unlikely to survive the Democrat-controlled state legislature according to HuffPost, it has enraged activists all the same.

“The bill turns victims of rape and incest into felons and forces them to become incubators of evidence for the state,” ProgressNow New Mexico member Pat Davis told HuffPost. “According to Republican philosophy, victims who are ‘legitimately raped’ will now have to carry the fetus to term in order to prove their case.“

Brown, who brags about being endorsed by Right to Life on her website, has yet to respond to Business Insider’s request for more information about her bill.

Sickening fog settles over Salt Lake City area

via Yahoo News:

Dr. Gary Kunkel arrives at the Utah State Capitol wearing a breathing mask before a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, in Salt Lake City. A group of doctors is declaring a health emergency over northern Utah's lingering pollution problem. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has singled out the greater Salt Lake region as having the nation's worst air for much of January, when an icy fog smothers mountain valleys for days or weeks at a time and traps lung-busting soot. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

 

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Michelle Francis keeps one eye on Utah’s air quality index and the other on her 9-year-old daughter’s chronic asthma these days. The air pollution is so awful in her Salt Lake City suburb that Francis keeps her daughter indoors on many days to prevent her cough from being aggravated.

“When you add all the gunk in the air, it’s too much,” Francis said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has singled out the greater Salt Lake region as having the nation’s worst air for much of January, when an icy fog smothers mountain valleys for days or weeks at a time and traps lung-busting soot.

The pollution has turned so bad that more than 100 Utah doctors called Wednesday on authorities to immediately lower highway speed limits, curb industrial activity and make mass transit free for the rest of winter. Doctors say the microscopic soot — a shower of combustion particles from tailpipe and other emissions — can tax the lungs of even healthy people.

“We’re in a public-health emergency for much of the winter,” said Brian Moench, a 62-year-old anesthesiologist and president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, which delivered the petition demanding action at the Utah Capitol.

The greater Salt Lake region had up to 130 micrograms of soot per cubic meter on Wednesday, or more than three times the federal clean-air limit, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

That’s equivalent to a bad day in the Los Angeles area.

For 2 million Utah residents, there is no escape except to the snow-capped mountains that gleam in the sunshine thousands of feet higher, or to resort towns like Park City, where the Sundance Film Festival is under way.

“I wish there was something we could do about it,” Francis, a school teacher 10 miles north of Salt Lake City, said.

Authorities have prohibited wood burning and urged people to limit driving. Vehicle emissions account for more than half of the trapped pollutants.

Utah regulators are working on a set of plans to limit everyday emissions, including a measure to ban the sale of aerosol deodorants and hair spray that contain hydrocarbon propellants. Those plans, however, will take years to show results.

Doctors say people — especially pregnant women and children — should stay indoors, or at least avoid active outdoor exercise under the sickening yellowish haze. Elderly people with heart disease are most at risk, Moench said.

“If you can see it, you don’t want to breathe it. Think about what’s going into your body,” Salt Lake City pediatrician Ellie Brownstein said. “It’s essentially like smoking. Instead of breathing clean air, you’re breathing particles that make it harder for your lungs to function and get oxygen.”

Snow cover amplifies the phenomena called a temperature inversion — Salt Lake City was a foggy freezer box Wednesday at 18 degrees, while Park City basked in sunny 43-degree weather. The warmer air aloft acted like a lid on the frigid valley air, leaving it with no place to go.

For weeks, industrialized cities in northern China have been dealing with bouts of sickening smog several times more toxic than Utah’s. But by U.S. standards, Utah’s pollution index is off the charts with readings routinely exceeding a scale that tops out at 70 micrograms a cubic meter. The EPA sets a standard for clean air at no more than 35 micrograms.

“People think the health implications are limited to asthma — that’s only a drop in the bucket,” Moench said. “For every pregnant woman breathing this stuff, this is a threat to her fetus through chromosome damage. It sets people up for a lifelong propensity for all sorts of diseases.”

Check Out These Awful ‘Ads’ With ‘Unnecessary’ Quotes

via Business Insider: 

Something about sign writing causes people to use quotes inappropriately. 

Writers think they’re drawing attention to a word by using quotes liberally. But if you’re a formal English usage maven, it probably drives you nuts.

As a refresher, quotes are used to denote direct words from someone’s mouth, to showcase a word as a word (like using “this” instead of “those”) and to point out that something isn’t real.

So scare-quotes suggest the sign might be lying — as in this handwritten notice for “fresh” guavas from “Mexico.”

We got these “hilarious” examples from the Unnecessary Quotes blog.

 

Not real bees…

You will have to pay to see a fake Santa.

YOU will love this one.

So, so wrong.

Don’t want to know how much they paid for this.

Not so cheap.

Over mis-quoting.

These are not fresh or from Mexico.

Now is a debatable time.

So is everyday.

Who needs beer when you have “beer”?

As opposed to “old” hours.

They meant “soda.” Proper quote use.

They’re “delicious.” Ew.

You pick your price?

School brings in high-powered assault weapons

via NBC News:

The semiautomatic rifles look like they belong in a war zone instead of a suburban public school, but officials in this Los Angeles-area city say the high-powered weapons now in the hands of school police could prevent a massacre.

Fontana Unified School District police purchased 14 of the Colt LE6940 rifles last fall, and they were delivered the first week of December — a week before the Connecticut school shooting. Over the holiday break, the district’s 14 school police officers received 40 hours of training on the rifles. Officers check them out for each shift from a fireproof safe in the police force’s main office.

Fontana isn’t the first district to try this. Other Southern California districts also have rifle programs — some that have been in operation for several years. Fontana school police Chief Billy Green said he used money from fingerprinting fees to purchase the guns for $14,000 after identifying a “critical vulnerability” in his force’s ability to protect students. The officers, who already wear sidearms, wouldn’t be able to stop a shooter like the one in Connecticut, he said Wednesday.

“They’re not walking around telling kids, ‘Hurry up and get to class’ with a gun around their neck,” the chief said. “Parents need to know that if there was a shooter on their child’s campus that was equipped with body armor or a rifle, we would be limited in our ability to stop that threat to their children.”

Some parents and students, however, reacted with alarm to the news that school resource officers were being issued the rifles during their shifts. The officers split their time between 44 schools in the district and keep the rifles in a safe at their assigned school or secured in their patrol car each day before checking the weapon back in to the school police headquarters each night.

Only sergeants trained for years to use the rifles are authorized to check out the rifles from the police armory, where they are kept.

“If the wrong person gets ahold of the gun, then we have another shooter going around with a gun. What happens then?” said James Henriquez, a 16-year-old sophomore who just enrolled at Fontana High School this week after moving from Texas.

Other students said they felt disillusioned that officials would spend money on semiautomatic rifles while the district eliminated its comprehensive guidance counseling program two years ago.

“They should get guns, but not as many and not spend so much money on them,” said student Elizabeth Tovar. “They should use the money to get back our counselors because a lot of us really need them.”

The district saved millions by restructuring guidance services, said Superintendent Cali Olsen-Binks.

The 40,000-student district came up with the school rifle program after consulting with top school safety experts and looking at what other large districts had done, said Olsen-Binks.

Santa Ana Unified School District, in nearby Orange County, has had a rifle program for about two years that operates similarly to the one Fontana has started, said police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.

The Los Angeles School Police Department also deploys rifles to its officers as needed, the department said in a statement. It would not say how many rifles district police have but said the weapons are kept in the department’s armory and are handed out and returned daily.

“I came from a teaching background, and it’s appalling to think that we’d have to have security officers — let alone armed police officers — on our campuses,” Olsen-Binks said. “But the bottom line is … everybody has anxiety over school safety right now.”

“Take a life to save a life”: Prince Harry reveals he killed Taliban fighters during Afghan tour of duty

via Mirror: 

Fighter pilot: Prince Harry

The brave pilot said while he was happy to be in the thick of the action picking off the enemy in his Apache helicopter

Hurtling through the skies above war-torn Helmand, Prince Harry was only too aware his Apache helicopter could have been shot down at any moment.

And the 28-year-old knew if he found himself in Taliban sights he would have no choice but to take them out first.

In an unprecedented interview with a senior royal, Harry admitted he had killed rebels during his 20-week tour of Afghanistan as he put his life on the line to protect troops on the ground and evacuate comrades wounded in battle.

But the brave pilot said while he was happy to be in the thick of the action picking off the enemy in the Apache, he admitted he preferred to be on the ­front line with his men – as he was on his last tour to Helmand in 2007-2008.

And he spoke about the attack at his Camp Bastion base on his birthday last September that many believed was a Taliban bid to murder him.

Asked if he had killed insurgents, Harry replied: “Yeah, so lots of people have. The squadron’s been out here. Everyone’s fired a certain amount.

“Take a life to save a life. That’s what we revolve around, I suppose.

“If there’s people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then we’ll take them out of the game, I suppose.

“But essentially we’re more of a ­deterrent. But ­occasionally we get taken on, the guys get taken on, even when we’re in the overhead.

“But it’s not just about the shooting, it’s about giving the effect to the enemy guys on the ground, and that’s not always pulling the trigger.”

But Harry insisted killing the enemy was not what motivated him to become an attack helicopter pilot.

The prince, known as Captain Wales, is due to arrive back home on Wednesday after his mission, where he flew deadly sorties over Taliban strongholds where rebels were routinely armed with RPGs and other highly-effective weapons.

Speaking about the missions he flew in the £45million Apache as a co-pilot gunner, Harry told of the buzz he got when the call came to launch.

 

Prince Harry
On the trigger: Harry at the controls of an Apache helicopter
PA
Prince Harry
Top gun: Prince Harry has flown scores of missions in Afghanistan
PA

 

He said: “Every time you run to the aircraft you get that adrenaline rush.

“Once you’re in you’ve got to try to slow yourself down because otherwise if the adrenaline’s pumping too much and everything happens too quickly, then you’re going to miss something.

“We get to the craft as quick as possible and six-and-a-half, seven minutes is the quickest we’ve got it going.”

From his seat in the front of the two-man cockpit, Harry is in charge of the weapons, which includes Hellfire missiles, rockets and a 30mm gun.

He uses a monocle-style gunsight to target the enemy. Known as a “slave to the eye” the system detects where he is looking and adjusts the surveillance and weapons sensors in the aircraft to follow his field of vision.

The prince admitted he and his comrades often fly into the unknown once they leave base on a mission.

He said accompanying Chinooks on casualty evacuation missions was the most important role for Apaches.

Speaking of one mission, he added: “Well, you never really know until you get in the aircraft.

“It was 18 klicks ­(kilometres) due west of here at an American base for an Afghan soldier.

“We don’t really know much more details than that, whether he was shot, or whatever.

“But it’s another part of the country that we’ve never been to and hopefully he’ll be all right and hopefully we were quick enough to get there and do the job. We’re only there for the Chinook guys anyway and the portable hospital.

“It all happens very quickly. Once you’re there, who knows what the ­situation’s going to be like.”

And speaking of unleashing the ­sophisticated and very powerful ­weaponry in the helicopter, he said: “When you fire, you still get the cordite smell, which is bizarre.

“The whole floor vibrates and when you fire a missile the whole aircraft shudders a little bit.”

The Apache pilots’ 12-hour very high readiness shifts are manned by four crew with two aircraft.

They are on standby to deploy ­immediately to unplanned operations.

Harry said the VHR missions are the most exhilarating because of their ­unpredictability and immediacy.

 

Prince Harry
Shift: Prince Harry does a pre-flight check of his Apache helicopter
PA
Prince Harry
Not a prince here: The young royal is known as Captain Harry Wales in the army
PA

 

He added: “It is probably the most rewarding if you’re busy. You can fly up to seven-and-a-half hours in a day.

“We did seven hours 10 the other day, which is exhausting.

“And other days you can be in and out of the tent eight or 10 times doing half an hour here, 45 minutes there, etc.

It’s definitely the one that has the most exciting end product.”

Harry told how one minute he could be sitting with his feet up sipping a coffee and the next he and his co-pilot are rushing to the ­helicopter for a “shout”.

He has to hold his 9mm SIG pistol tight to his waist as he runs.

The two aircraft are already fuelled, fully armed with the pilots’ kit draped across the weapons pylons.

Ground crew hurriedly pull off the awnings keeping the cockpit as cool as possible in the searing Afghan heat as soon as the shout goes up.

Harry stows his carbine, a shortened rifle and ammo alongside his seat and packs his body armour and webbing away before clambering inside.

He loads up the flight navigator box, pulls on his purple bandana and helmet, then adjusts his radio and hi-tech eyepiece.

While Harry receives his mission brief, the spinning rotors make an almighty roar as the downdraft churns the desert air.

Within five minutes they are away, climbing rapidly into the Afghan sky, into the unknown.

The prince said the role of helicopters and the co-pilot gunner has changed.

He said: “It used to be very much, front seat, you’re firing the whole time.”

During his tour Harry was given the nickname Ugly – the call sign of an Apache attack helicopter pilot.

He said: “I don’t know where Ugly came from but it is a pretty ugly beast, and I think it’s very cool. I’ve always wanted to be an Ugly.”

Harry was already familiar with the Apache having guided them towards enemy locations during his first deployment in Helmand.

He added: “Ever since I was a Joint Terminal Attack Controller back in 2007, whenever it was, speaking to the Uglies was always the number one.

“Things have changed now. We’ve got no Harriers any more, the Tornados are working elsewhere, so this is the choice platform as far as we’re concerned for the guys on the ground.”

 

Prince Harry
Prince Harry or just plain Captain Wales as he is known in the British Army, does a pre-flight check of his Apache Helicopter
PA
Prince Harry
Ready for action: Harry jumps aboard
PA

 

Like all members of his unit – 662 Squadron, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps – Harry wears his “Go Ugly Early” badge with pride.

He has his fixed to his flying helmet, alongside one with “Harry Wales” stitched in yellow on to a black Stars and Stripes flag and another of the Blue-Red-Blue flash of the Household Division.

As well as accompanying the Chinooks and Black Hawks – who use the call signs “Tricky” and “Pedro” for casualty ­evacuation missions – the Ugly Apaches are sent to support Troops In Contact.

But while Harry said he was thrilled to carry out a range of dangerous missions from the air, he told how he missed the excitement of the front line.

And he revealed he despised being stuck at the Camp Bastion base.

The prince added: “My choice would have been back out on the ground with my regiment.

“It is a weird reality, being stuck in Bastion. For me, I hate it, being stuck here. I’d much rather be out with the lads in a PB (patrol base).

“The last job was, for me personally, better. Obviously lots of guys like the luxury and comforts of Bastion.

“But what’s weird is we’re stuck in Bastion and what’s going on out there is completely separate.

“But as soon as we’re outside the fence, we’re in the thick of it.

“Yes, OK, we’re supposedly safe, but anything can go wrong with this ­helicopter. It is a pain in the a*** being stuck in Bastion.

“Going into the ­cookhouse with hundreds of people, it’s frustrating. But then again, I get to fly this thing, so it comes with pros and cons.

“There is probably, hopefully a minority of people, that seem to think that I’ve got a free pass, I’m in this aircraft therefore I’m as safe as houses.

“But you can’t get a free pass in this job. You can’t get a free pass on anything in the army really.”

Harry denied he was the main target of the rebel assault on the base last year, in which two US marines and 14 rebels were killed.

 

 

 

The prince believe it could have been targeted at American forces, because of an incident in which copies of the Koran were allegedly ­desecrated.

He said: “I think it was about 15 guys who decided to attack the base.

“No one really knows yet but I think it was more towards the book and the Americans, but either way, this camp is in the middle of Afghanistan and we should expect to be attacked.”

While he loves his job in the Army, Harry admits it is a career path some thought he may not be able to follow owing to his lack of academic skills.

The prince revealed he was not the best at school and he could have hit the books a lot harder during his 18-month flying course.

But that did not stop him from qualifying top of his class as an Apache pilot. Harry said: “I don’t know, I’m one of those people that, during my flying course especially, I would be fine at flying.

“I probably should have done a lot more reading. And then every now and then a written test would come up, and I’d be absolutely useless and I’ve been like that from stage one of my youth.”

Harry was far more comfortable on the sports pitches than in the classroom.

He had to repeat his final year at his prep-school Ludgrove to gain a place at Eton College in 1998.

He said: “Exams were horrible, but anything like kicking a ball or playing PlayStation, or flying, I do find a bit easier than walking, sometimes.”

Harry began to show military ­potential at Eton, where he rose through the ranks as a cadet.

After taking a gap year, he gained a place at Sandhurst college, despite having not been to university.

The prince said being selected on the Apache course came as a surprise.

He added: “I think back, when it was all decided, it was never expected.

“Because being a junior captain, or a lieutenant and a non-grad, obviously not going to university, therefore the army presume you to be less intelligent, which is nice of them… probably true.”

Netflix Nabs Cartoon Network, Adult Swim Shows In Deal With Warner Bros.TV

via Business Insider: 

Netflix’s library of television titles continues to grow after reaching another exclusive licensing deal with the Warner Bros. Television Group.

Robot Chicken Star Wars Adult Swim

Starting this spring, a variety of titles from Cartoon Network and Adult Swim will become available to subscribers, while a deal with Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. will bring seasons one and two of TNT’s “Dallas” reboot to the streaming service in January 2014.

“We are delighted that Netflix will become the exclusive over-the-top streaming subscription destination for past seasons of favorite Cartoon Network and Adult Swim titles,” Ted Sarandos, chief content officer of Netflix, said in a statement. “We’re also thrilled to be able to offer the latest seasons of ‘Dallas,’ one of the greatest all-time guilty pleasures.”

The latest deal between Netflix and Warner Bros. Television comes just a week after the two parties reached agreement to make programs like “The West Wing,” “Chuck,” “Fringe,” “Political Animals” and eventually, “The Following” exclusively available on the streaming service.

Complete past seasons of Cartoon Network shows such as “Adventure Time,” “Ben 10,” “Regular Show” and “Johnny Bravo” will join Warner Bros. Animation’s “Green Lantern” in the “Just for Kids” section of Netflix Instant on March 30. Adult Swim’s “Robot Chicken,” “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” “The Boondocks” and “Children’s Hospital” will also become available at that time.

“We are thrilled to continue our great relationship with Netflix giving their subscribers access to more and more of our programming,” Ken Werner, president of Warner Bros. domestic television distribution, added. “This represents another evolutionary step in the TV ecosystem working with Netflix, on the SVOD platform, to improve the consumer experience while being respectful of existing business models.”