Ipso Facto

20131220 schoolentrance photocom1792585901 150Recently, I had an opportunity to address a group of school superintendents. These men and women have an awesome responsibility. They are leaders charged with educating and protecting our children. The latter responsibility has been complicated by the random, senseless, violent rampages that have plagued school districts across the country. Educators, law enforcement and parents are looking for answers.

For school children educated in a post-Columbine America, the idea that they must prepare for bad people who open fire in classrooms, school libraries and playgrounds has become routine.

As the tragedies of Columbine are repeated at Red Lake; and Chardon; and Sandy Hook the response to these catastrophic events by police and educators has evolved.

The U.S. Department of Education has proposed a new plan for teachers and students to deal with an active shooter—“Run, Hide or Fight.

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20131213 drivetexting photocom165162816 150A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that texting while driving multiplies the chance of crashing by 23. Composing a typical text message is roughly akin to closing one's eyes for nearly five seconds, during which time a car going 55 mph covers more than the length of a football field.

Analysis from AAA shows that the Pittsburgh Metro area ranks second in the state of Pennsylvania for texting-while-driving citations.

According to the study, there were a total of 1,302 citations issued across Pennsylvania during the first full year of the law being in effect.

The study shows 111 of the citations were in Allegheny County and nearly 200 citations were issued in the seven counties surrounding the Pittsburgh area, including Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

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20131206 guns photocom164459430 150The controversial self-defense law known as ‘Stand Your Ground’ is back in the news. Two tragic killings, one in a small north Georgia community near the Tennessee border and the other in Dearborn Heights a suburb of Detroit, have once again heightened awareness of the law.

In Georgia, 72-year-old Ronald Westbrook, suffering from Alzheimer’s had wondered away from his home in the frigid early morning hours the day before Thanksgiving.

Westbrook ended up nearly three miles from home with a handful of other people’s mail, jiggling the doorknob of a home owned by Joe Hendrix.

Hendrix, a 34-year-old Iraq war veteran, stepped onto his porch with a Glock pistol in his hand and his fiancée inside on the phone with a 911 dispatcher. He fired four shots. One hit Westbrook in the chest killing him

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201311129 brain photocom149148235 150The U.S. Supreme Court has helped spur a bevy of action focusing on the effect of adolescent brain development on criminal activity.

Starting with Roper v. Simmons, a 2005 case that abolished the death penalty for juveniles, and continued with Graham v. Florida, a 2010 decision finding juvenile offenders could not be sentenced to mandatory life-without-parole for non-homicide offenses and most recently in Miller v. Alabama, where the Court found that a state cannot impose a life-without-parole sentence for juvenile homicide offenders on a mandatory basis.   

Roper cited behavioral studies, while Graham and Miller cited adolescent brain research suggesting that juveniles may be less culpable than adults.

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20131121gov nsalogo150The US Supreme Court rejected without comment one of the first challenges to the National Security Agency's (NSA) broad spying activities. The petition made by the advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) was something of a longshot, but only because the secretive nature of the court overseeing the NSA required an unusual legal request.

EPIC bypassed the lower courts and went directly to the Supreme Court, reasoning that only the justices could tell the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court what to do.

The order being challenged forced Verizon to turn over all records of calls originating in the United States to the NSA. According to a copy of the order published by The Guardian, Verizon was required to produce on a daily basis all details relating to calls — termed "telephony metadata" — that Verizon created both for international calls originating within the US and all local calls contained within the country. The metadata in question is listed as including a variety of different types of data, including IMEI numbers, time and duration of the exchanges, and the two phone numbers placing and receiving the calls as well.

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