Bill would authorize ‘deadly force’ for Texas teachers

AUSTIN – A Texas lawmaker says it’s time to protect teachers who stand up to unruly students, but he’s filed a bill that would authorize deadly force.

“One of the concerns they have is the lack of discipline in their classroom,” said state Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Canton), who believes teachers already have enough to worry about.

He says unruly students don’t just endanger the learning environment, but teachers and other students as well, citing recent instances of teachers being physically assaulted in their own classroom.

“From time to time, they do attack our teachers, and if a teacher even raises up her hand to defend herself, or he raises his hand up and defends himself, he finds he could be either sued or lose their job,” Flynn said. “I want to be able to protect those teachers.”

Flynn is the author of House Bill 868, which states “an educator is justified in using force or deadly force on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored event in defense of the educator’s person or in defense of students of the school that employs the educator,” as well as “in defense of property of the school that employs the educator.”

“When a teacher told me to sit down and behave, we did it,” said Flynn. “We are living in a different age right now, and the teachers are reluctant to be able to do that because there is such an effort on the part of many to blame them.”

Some 80 Texas school districts have policies allowing either teachers or staff to carry firearms, but Flynn is emphatic guns have nothing to do with his bill. While it doesn’t mention them, it doesn’t exclude them either.

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Multiple States Mull Passage of Campus Concealed Carry Legislation

Texas, Florida, Arkansas, Wyoming, Indiana, Colorado, Montana and Nevada are considering passage of laws allowing college students or K-12 staff and teachers to carry concealed firearms on campus.

In Texas, Senate Bill 11 from Republican state Sen. Brian Birdwell and House Bill 937 from Republican state Rep. Allen Fletcher would allow students, faculty, visitors and staff to carry their guns anywhere on campus, including classrooms, libraries and student unions, reports the Dallas Morning News.

Florida politicians are once again is also considering allowing concealed guns at state colleges and universities despite a similar bill being defeated recently, reports Wink News. The new bill, HB 4005, was prompted by a shooting on the campus of Florida State University last fall.

In Arkansas, if House Bill 1077 passes, universities will no longer have the right to opt out of a law allowing faculty to carry concealed weapons, reports the Arkansas Traveler.

Wyoming Republican Rep. Allen Jaggi has sponsored House Bill 114 that would repeal the state’s gun-free zones act, reports the Washington Free Beacon. Last week, the bill was approved by the House Judiciary Committee, so it will now go to the House floor.

Indiana is considering passage of HB 1143, which would allow concealed weapons on college campuses, and Montana has introduced Senate Bill 143, which would prohibit colleges from regulating or restricting the possession of firearms on university property.

In Colorado, Republican Rep. Patrick Neveille, who is a former student of Columbine High School who survived the 1999 attack, has introduced a bill allowing anyone with a concealed carry permit to carry firearms in public schools, reports BearingArms.com. Neville’s bill is one of several introduced in the Colorado legislature. Most of the proposed legislation in Colorado is not expected to pass.

The Montana state Senate this week narrowly endorsed a bill that would allow people to carry concealed guns on college campuses, reports the Great Falls Tribune. Bill 143 would, with some exceptions, prohibit restrictions on firearms on state university property. School regents would still be able to regulate gun possession at campus events where alcohol is served or in dorms if a roommate objects to a gun being in his or her room.

The Nevada legislature is considering a bill that would allow firearms to be stored in a car on the grounds of any day care center or public, private or college campus as long as the vehicle is occupied, locked or if the gun is kept in a storage container, reports the Elko Daily Free Press. Similar legislation didn’t pass in 2013 but could face less opposition this time.

A study conducted by Campus Safety magazine last fall concluded that nearly three out of four campus protection professionals oppose college students being allowing to carry concealed guns on campus.

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Police radar could detect texting while driving

We’re all familiar with the radar guns that police use to catch and ticket speeding drivers. But the next stage of that technology is now poised to nab drivers who are engaged in a behavior that’s possibly even more dangerous: texting behind the wheel.

A Virginia-based company called ComSonics is developing a new type of radar gun that can actually detect whether text message radio frequencies are being emitted from passing cars. According to The Virginian-Pilot, ComSonics says the device is “close to production.”

Virginia is one of 44 U.S. states that has a ban on texting while driving.

As the topic of distracted driving continues to gain nationwide attention, ComSonics isn’t the only company attempting to create at technology designed to temper it.

Third-party apps for Android and iOS, like DriveScribe and DriveOFF, detect when your car is moving and will block all incoming notifications on your phone. And an activity-reporting app called Canary can be installed on young drivers’ phones to let parents know when their kids are calling or texting while driving.

Apple itself has been sitting on a filed patent for a “driver handheld computing device lock-out” to keep iPhone owners from texting while on the road. As for when or how exactly this feature would be rolled out to iOS or the company’s new CarPlay system, that’s anyone’s guess.

It’s yet to be determined whether law enforcement in Virginia or anywhere else will adopt ComSonics’ texting-detection gadget. Whether it pans out or doesn’t, the best advice we can give would be to keep your eyes open and on the road. Slow down and put the phone down.

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State approves 1,000 for medical pot; drug access remains months away

The number of approved medical marijuana patients in Illinois has reached about 1,000, officials announced Wednesday.

While the number remains far below initial projections, it’s a noticeable increase from 650 one month ago.

“Some people may be waiting until the product is actually available,” Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said.

That earlier number was “terrifying” for medical marijuana business owners, said Mark Passerini, president of the Illinois Cannabis Industry Association, who had said it’s not a sustainable business unless more patients sign up.

About 14,000 people have registered to begin the patient application process for medical cannabis since the state began accepting applications last fall. Of those, about 2,100 have submitted at least part of the application.

To qualify, patients must have one of about three dozen specified medical conditions, and they must fill out a written application with a doctor’s recommendation and fingerprints to pass a criminal background check.

The most commonly cited conditions initially included cancer, severe fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries, officials said.

Most of the licenses to grow and sell medical marijuana in Illinois were just issued Monday after an extensive application and vetting process. Business owners said it will take time to prepare their sites and about four months to grow the first crop.

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DEA Contemplated Mass Surveillance of Gun Show Attendees

Recent revelations about a proposed federal law enforcement program might have some friends and families drawing lots to decide who drives to the next gun show.

Criminals rarely obtain guns from gun shows. A Department of Justice survey of state and federal inmates, found that only 0.7 percent of those polled had acquired a firearm that they possessed at the time of their offense from a gun show. Unfortunately, this didn’t stop at least one federal official from suggesting that the sophisticated tools of the modern surveillance state be turned on unsuspecting gun show attendees.

Documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the American Civil Liberties Union reveal that, in 2009, the Drug Enforcement Administration contemplated using License Plate Readers (LPRs) to track vehicle traffic from gun shows. A highly redacted email from an unknown DEA official suggests the program was past infancy, and stated, “DEA Phoenix Division Office is working closely with ATF on attacking the guns going to [redacted] and the guns shows to include programs/operation with LPRs at the gun shows.”

ACLU correctly points out the danger of such technology in an article on their website, explaining, “An automatic license plate reader cannot distinguish between people transporting illegal guns and those transporting legal guns, or no guns at all; it only documents the presence of any car driving to the event. Mere attendance at a gun show, it appeared, would have been enough to have one’s presence noted in a DEA database.”

The proposed program is even more disturbing when placed into the larger context of the Justice Department’s ongoing general license plate tracking program. A January 26 article from the Wall Street Journal explains the broad contours of DOJ LPR surveillance. The piece states, “The Justice Department has been building a national database to track in real time the movement of vehicles around the U.S., a secret domestic intelligence-gathering program that scans and stores hundreds of millions of records about motorists.” The authors go on to explain the wide availability of the collected data, writing, “Many state and local law-enforcement agencies are accessing the database for a variety of investigations… putting a wealth of information in the hands of local officials who can track vehicles in real time on major roadways.” They further note that this national database “allows any police agency that participates to quickly search records of many states for information about a vehicle.”

According to a January 27 Wall Street Journal article focusing specifically on the gun show surveillance proposal, DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart told the paper, “The proposal in the email was only a suggestion. It was never authorized by DEA, and the idea under discussion in the email was never launched.” Further, the article stated that DOJ officials were quick to deny any BATFE involvement in the LPR scheme. However, as has been made clear by the events of the last two years, public statements by federal officials regarding the scope of federal surveillance activities should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.

DEA’s proposed indiscriminate gun show surveillance places an unacceptable burden on the privacy of law-abiding citizens exercising their Second Amendment rights and even smacks of firearm registration. Further, such tactics infringe upon rights protected by the First Amendment. Gun shows are far more than just shopping opportunities for gun buyers. They are also community gatherings that often serve as venues for political expression and organizing. As such, they are subject to the First Amendment’s rights of freedom of association and to peaceably assemble and should be free from government activity that could chill free and open participation.

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Nevada Telemarketer Helps Save Alleged Assault Victim in Oregon

Quick action by a telemarketer in Las Vegas may have helped save an alleged assault victim several states away.

When Camille McElroy, a telemarketer for a health care company called Americare Now, answered her phone Thursday, she heard faint crying in the background that got progressively louder, Americare Now president Mario Gonzalez told ABC News today.

“She could hear a woman being attacked brutally. At that point she advised her manager, and I happened to be walking through the floor,” Gonzalez said. “Her manager flagged me down and said, ‘You might want to hear this. This woman is being attacked.’”

McElroy told ABC News affiliate KTNV in Las Vegas that she could hear the caller — a woman in Oregon — “saying, ‘Please, please, stop, no, no,’ but you can actually hear the hitting.”

“He was hitting her and it was so loud that you could tell he was hitting her hard,” McElroy said to KTNV.

Gonzalez “jumped on the phone,” he said, and contacted the local Oregon authorities in Linn County, who sent deputies to the caller’s home.

The caller survived, KTNV reports, and Walter Ruck, 33, was arrested on charges including assault and strangulation.

Gonzalez said he and his employees teared up and hugged each other after learning the caller was found alive.

“Very emotional for all of us,” Gonzalez said. “Very relieved at the same time. Just emotionally drained from the whole ordeal. If you would have heard the call when it was actually happening, it was very traumatic. I honestly didn’t know if the lady would be alive by the time the cops got there.”

While Gonzalez said he hasn’t been in touch with the Oregon woman, he’s been told that she has written “and wants to speak to me. So I’m looking forward to getting the chance to say hi.”

ABC News’ calls to the Linn County Sheriff’s Office were not immediately returned.

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Aldermen call for red light camera standards

City officials would have to hold community meetings and provide evidence that red light ticket cameras would make specific intersections safer before they could install the devices going forward under a plan that also would establish standard lengths for yellow lights across Chicago.

Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th, and Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th, want to require that all intersections in the city equipped with the cameras have so-called “countdown” pedestrian-control signals so people driving toward a green light could see how many seconds are left before it changes. The proposal would set yellow light lengths of at least 3.2 seconds. And it would require City Council approval of each camera location, giving aldermen who don’t want the cameras in their neighborhoods a measure of say-so.

In addition, city officials would need to produce traffic studies estimating the safety impact of the cameras at intersections where they want to put them.

“We want to make sure red light camera installations are for public safety, and not the perceived revenue issues they have been,” Tunney said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he had not seen the ordinance, and he declined comment Wednesday on whether he thinks the proposed changes to the red light camera program are a good idea. If Emanuel doesn’t back the plan, it has little chance of success.

The move comes after the Chicago Tribune reported last fall that the Emanuel administration quietly issued a new, shorter yellow light standard when the city began the transition from red light camera vendor Redflex Traffic Systems to Xerox State & Local Solutions in February 2014. The switch to a 2.9-second yellow came after the city had long set the standard length for yellow lights at three seconds.

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Major Ruling Shields Privacy of Cellphones

WASHINGTON — In a sweeping victory for privacy rights in the digital age, the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously ruled that the police need warrants to search the cellphones of people they arrest.

While the decision will offer protection to the 12 million people arrested every year, many for minor crimes, its impact will most likely be much broader. The ruling almost certainly also applies to searches of tablet and laptop computers, and its reasoning may apply to searches of homes and businesses and of information held by third parties like phone companies.

“This is a bold opinion,” said Orin S. Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University. “It is the first computer-search case, and it says we are in a new digital age. You can’t apply the old rules anymore.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the court, was keenly alert to the central role that cellphones play in contemporary life. They are, he said, “such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy.”

But he added that old principles required that their contents be protected from routine searches. One of the driving forces behind the American Revolution, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, was revulsion against “general warrants,” which “allowed British officers to rummage through homes in an unrestrained search for evidence of criminal activity.”

“The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand,” the chief justice also wrote, “does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the founders fought.”

The government has been on a surprising losing streak in cases involving the use of new technologies by the police. In Wednesday’s case and in a 2012 decision concerning GPS devices, the Supreme Court’s precedents had supported the government. “But the government got zero votes in those two cases,” Professor Kerr said.

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Police dog sniffs out 100 pounds of pot in N.J.

CHERRY HILL, N.J. — A traffic stop in Cherry Hill, N.J. resulted in the seizure of 250 pounds of marijuana, CBS Philadelphia reported.

According to investigators, the investigation began when Narcotics detectives uncovered suspicious deliveries and activity at a self-storage unit.

Police say a person of interest was identified and he was spotted removing large boxes from the storage unit, placing them in a car and driving away.

Officers with the Cherry Hill Police Department stopped the driver for having a suspended driver’s license and he was arrested on a local warrant. The driver was identified by police as 57-year-old Nelson Anderson of Camden.

A K-9 with the Cherry Hill Police Department named Mika was brought to the scene and detected a narcotic odor.

The vehicle was impounded and officers applied for a search warrant of the car and rental unit.

Investigators said a search revealed 100 pounds of marijuana in the car and over 150 pounds of marijuana in the rental unit.

After an investigation, it was determined that the marijuana was stored in Cherry Hill, but it was distributed in the city of Camden.

Anderson has been charged with Possession of Marijuana over 50 Grams, Distribution of Marijuana over 25 Lbs, Distribution of Marijuana in a School Zone. He is being held at the Camden County Jail in default of $250,000.00 cash bail.

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Michigan man targets the elderly in $46.5M Ponzi scheme

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A western Michigan man convicted of operating a $46.5 million Ponzi scheme that targeted elderly investors was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison on Wednesday.

David McQueen, 44, was convicted earlier this year of fraud and other charges related to the scheme. Prosecutors say he promised to make steady payments to hundreds of investors, but really just moved money between accounts to keep checks from bouncing.

The courtroom was packed with victims for his sentencing hearing, The Grand Rapids Press reported. U.S. District Judge Gordon Quist said many victims are in financial ruin, including a woman who invested $500,000 with him who was then unable to pay for her sick husband’s medical care and funeral.

“Mr. McQueen does not take any responsibility for what has occurred here,” Quist said. “He can say he’s sorry in an abstract sense but I don’t think he feels it.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sally Berens said McQueen portrayed himself as a Christian doing good works while taking a $150,000 monthly salary. McQueen still owes $32 million in restitution, prosecutors say.

McQueen, who lived in Kent County’s Byron Township, has blamed lawyers and others for his failed investments.

His business partner, Trent Francke, pleaded guilty to securities and tax charges. Quist sentenced him Tuesday to seven years in prison.

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