Sandy will be the new normal

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg abruptly reversed course and canceled Sunday’s marathon, a beloved annual race that had become a lightning rod for people frustrated by the disastrous aftermath of megastorm Sandy.The decision …



NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg abruptly reversed course and canceled Sunday's marathon, a beloved annual race that had become a lightning rod for people frustrated by the disastrous aftermath of megastorm Sandy.

The decision on Friday came after a growing number of storm victims, some runners, and other politicians criticized Bloomberg's decision earlier in the week to go forward with the marathon, one of the world's most popular sporting events. They said the race, expected to draw more than 40,000 runners, could have diverted police and other resources from recovery efforts.

Bloomberg, hours after he repeated plans for the race to take place, issued a statement saying the event had become a "source of controversy and division" and would be scrubbed. The race will not be run again until next year, organizers said.

The decision removes what could have a been a dark spot on the mayor's legacy. Public opinion in the past few days had turned against the mayor, with growing numbers saying it was inappropriate to run the race when so many New Yorkers were suffering.

People angered by the marathon plans had set up online petitions calling for runners to boycott the 26.2-mile race, or to run backward from the starting line in protest.

The uproar grew after the New York Road Runners Club, the race organizer, set up generators in Central Park for communications and other operations. It said it had paid for those privately, not with public funds, but some complained that the equipment should have been donated to those without power, electricity or heat.
Some runners, hearing of the cancellation, expressed frustration.
"I have mixed emotions," said Christopher Miller, 34, of New Rochelle, New York, who would have been running his fourth New York City marathon. "Our hearts go out to people for their suffering, and also to the thousands who came from out of town and will leave without accomplishing what they set out to do months ago."

BAD RECEPTION FOR RUNNERS?

Another runner said the mayor should have stuck to the original decision, saying the race gives local businesses a boost and was set to raise large amounts for relief efforts.
"This was going to turn into a big recovery and healing event," said Usama Malik, 37, who works for a hedge fund. "I thought it was great that he (Bloomberg) made the decision to go on with it, to raise funds, to promote healing, and get people's minds off of everything else that's going on."
Sandy, which brought a record storm surge to coastal areas, killed at least 102 people after slamming into the U.S. Northeast on Monday. Forty-one died in New York City, about half of them in Staten Island, which was overrun by a wall of water.

The marathon starts in Staten Island and weaves through all five of the city's boroughs. Hundreds of thousands of people line the streets to watch the race.

Run every year since 1970, the marathon attracts professional and amateur runners, and is so popular that organizers run a lottery system to determine who can compete. The field features elite runners from around the globe, and is one of the six World Marathon Majors.

Among those who had been set to compete was Wilson Kipsang, the winner of this year's London Marathon, who had traveled 45 hours from his home in Kenya.

In announcing that the race had been called off, Bloomberg insisted it would not have diverted resources from the recovery effort. Hours earlier he had previously drawn parallels with the decision a decade ago not to cancel or postpone the marathon after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

However, he said, "we cannot allow a controversy over an athletic event - even one as meaningful as this - to distract attention away from all the critically important work that is being done to recover from the storm and get our city back on track."

Mary Wittenberg, the head of the New York Road Runners Club, said that as the controversy grew, she also was concerned about the reception runners may have received along the route.

At a news conference, Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson said it had become clear that "something that every year brings joy and unity to this city had become divisive and painful, and this is a city that's had enough pain in the last week and I don't think we need to add more."

(Reporting by Martha Graybow, Edith Honan, Emily Flitter, Julian Linden, Michelle Nichols, Anna Louie Sussman and Phil Wahba; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Eric Walsh)



Mice and other specimens were lost when a New York lab flooded and lost power, potentially setting back crucial studies for years

As Hurricane Sandy flooded Lower Manhattan, the staff at New York University's Langone Medical Center rushed to evacuate 300 patients. At another NYU facility, the Smilow Research Building, thousands of lab mice drowned as the storm surge filled the basement with water. Many tissue samples and other specimens also were lost. "It's so horrible, you don't even want to think about it," said Michelle Krogsgaard, a cancer biologist. "All the work we did, all the time and money, we're going to have to start all over." What kinds of research were lost in the storm? Here, a brief guide:

What went wrong?

The so-called Frankenstorm knocked out power to the hospital. When the storm's record-breaking tides flooded the basement, where many of the research specimens were kept, the backup generators failed, leaving the 13-story research center in the dark. The mice were inundated. Other cells, tissues, and animals used for medical research died slowly in idle refrigerators, freezers, and incubators. Precious enzymes, antibodies, and DNA strands generated by scientists and stored at temperatures as cold as -80 degrees were also almost surely destroyed.


NEW YORK (Reuters) - Frustration grew for superstorm Sandy's victims in the U.S. Northeast on Friday, many of whom were left with no power, no gasoline and little information about when their shattered lives might return to normal.

While Manhattan prepared to host the annual New York City Marathon on Sunday, acute gasoline shortages in the city's storm-battered outer boroughs and New Jersey led to long lines and short tempers.

Tankers finally began entering New York Harbor on Thursday, and a tanker carrying 2 million barrels of gasoline arrived at 2 a.m. on Friday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

Sandy, which brought a record storm surge to coastal areas, killed at least 102 people after slamming into the U.S. Northeast on Monday. Forty-one died in New York City, about half of them in Staten Island, which was overrun by a wall of water.

Starting before dawn on Friday, long lines of cars snaked around gasoline stations around the area in scenes reminiscent of the energy shortage of the 1970s.
"The police are stopping people who are trying to cut in the line," said Steven Golub, 53, an attorney who waited in line for hours at a Manhattan gas station. "There's no gas anywhere else. There was a guy with diplomatic plates who tried to cut in the line and one of the cab drivers complained so the police actually stopped him."
Police were in place at many spots to keep the peace between furious, frustrated drivers. In one instance, a man who attempted to cut in line was charged with threatening another driver with a gun on Thursday in the borough of Queens.

"When people cut the line, people are about to stone them," said Chris Allegretta, who had stood in line for 90 minutes with a gas can at a filling station in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey.

Less than 40 percent of all gas stations in New York City, Long Island and New Jersey operated on Thursday because of a combination of power outages and constricted supplies after the storm devastated the energy industry's ability to move fuel into and around the New York City region.

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Federal Emergency Management Agency Deputy Administrator Richard Serino planned to visit Staten Island on Friday amid angry claims by some survivors that the borough had been ignored.

'THEY FORGOT ABOUT US'

President Barack Obama, locked in a tight race with Republican challenger Mitt Romney, has so far received praise for his handling of storm relief. But scenes of angry storm victims could affect the U.S. political campaign with Election Day four days away.

"They forgot about us," said Theresa Connor, 42, describing her Staten Island neighborhood as having been "annihilated." "And Bloomberg said New York is fine. The marathon is on," she said, referring to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Rising seawater flooded lower Manhattan, much of which still lacked power and subway service on Friday, while midtown and uptown Manhattan were close to normal.

Fury has been escalating throughout New York at Bloomberg's decision to proceed with the marathon on Sunday, vowing the event - which attracts more than 40,000 runners - would not divert any resources storm victims.

"I just walked past four huge generators. Those could be put to use for people who need them," said Marjorie Dial, a tourist from Oregon who was shocked to see the generators in Central Park, where the marathon finishes. "What they've discovered on Staten Island should have been the tipping point - the bodies."

New York City Councilman James Oddo said on his Twitter account: "If they take one first responder from Staten Island to cover this marathon, I will scream."

More than 3.7 million homes and businesses along the U.S. East Coast remained without power on Friday.



Dear Friend,
Hurricane Sandy caused terrible devastation and loss. But it is also a teachable moment to educate the public about the connection between extreme weather and oceans that are warming due to fossil-fueled climate change.
But too many major news outlets and reports are still relying on hackneyed weather reporting — windblown "reporters" with microphones on beaches — rather than asking why storms are getting bigger and more dangerous.1
Hurricane Sandy was no mere natural disaster. It was a record-setting killer storm that is becoming the new normal thanks to human-caused climate change — and is a harbinger of much worse to come if we do not change course.
If we are ever to have sufficient will to attack global warming, the public needs to be let in on what many climate scientists are already saying, and the urgent need for action.
Fortunately, there are a few media outlets starting to make the connection — at least raising the question and bringing on thoughtful guests.2
But most of Big Media is relying on lowest-common-denominator weather reporting to cover record-breaking extreme weather.
We deserve better. Much better.
When it comes to confronting climate change, we have a major structural and political problem. Our broken system of campaign finance and lobbying has allowed major polluters to buy off one party and essentially scare the other. The result is gridlock, science denial, and a continuance of policies which subsidize, promote and even invest in fossil fuels for the long-term, when we should be phasing them out as fast as can — maybe faster.
We must, very soon, work to overcome the power of the fossil fuel polluters and their hold on our elected leaders to get the policies we need.
Part of that will be the media fulfilling their obligation to inform the populous in this country, and doing so in a way that is commensurate with the urgency of this crisis. We need to know the whole truth. They must start reporting it.
Thank you for taking a stand.
Michael Kieschnick, President and CEO 
CREDO Action from Working Assets

1. Michael Calderone, "Hurricane Sandy Cable News Coverage Avoids Talk Of Climate Change," Huffington Post, October 29, 2012
2. Stephen Lacey, "Watch: Television News Starts Covering The Link Between Climate Change And Superstorm Sandy," ThinkProgress, October 31, 2012
3. Wen Stephenson, "A Convenient Excuse," The Phoenix, October 31, 2012



Dear Friend,
Words can't do justice to the fear and peril being experienced by million of people on the East Coast right now.
For those of us who are lucky enough to be out of Sandy's path, it is difficult to know what to do with ourselves.
What we do know is that this is potentially a big moment in the movement to address global warming. There is growing evidence that storms like Sandy will be the new normal rather than a freak of nature.1
There will always be storms, but as the oceans warm and the Arctic melts, Sandy is a foreboding glimpse of the stronger storms (along with floods, draughts, wildfires, etc.) of the future.
So in between checking on your friends and loved ones if you are able to do so, looking at the latest disaster pics online, refreshing The Weather Channel home page, (or seeing if the polls have changed in Ohio,) here are three things we can all do right now:
  1. Commit to vote against anyone who denies climate science or who expresses doubt that attacking global warming is an urgent priority. The League of Conservation Voters maintains a useful scorecard of our Representatives and Senators' votes on the environment.2
  2. Donate to a local emergency shelter or to the Red Cross.
  3. Listen to Bill McKibben in conversation with Amy Goodman on Democracy Nowexplain why Sandy should be a wake-up call, and then share it widely with all your friends and family.
We wish safety and the fastest possible recovery to all on the East Coast on this scary night. Thank you for standing with us in the fight for our future.
Micheal Kieschnick, President and CEO 
CREDO Action from Working Assets

1. "New Study Ties Hurricane Strength To Global Warming," Climate Central, 10-15-12. 
2. Look for vote #2 in the Senate and vote #11 in the House, to repeal the scientific finding by the EPA that greenhouse gases endanger human health and the environment, and to permanently block the EPA from reducing greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.




 By 
One of the major unanswered questions about climate change is whether hurricanes have become more frequent and stronger as the world has warmed. Until now, there hasn’t been enough evidence to settle the question, but a report published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences may have changed all that. Using an entirely new method of tallying hurricane power and frequency, a team of scientists say that hurricanes are, indeed, more of a danger when ocean temperatures are higher. “In particular, we estimate that Katrina-magnitude events have been twice as frequent in warm years compared with cold years," the report says.

Until now, the problem with such calculations is that until satellites came along in the 1970’s, nobody knew for sure how many hurricanes formed during a given year. That’s because some hurricanes never strike land, and unless a ship or a plane happened upon one of these storms, nobody might even know it had ever existed, and certainly not how strong it was.

The record from the '70's onward is much more complete — but since hurricane numbers wax and wane based on a natural cycle, that’s not long enough to see if there’s a warming-related pattern on top of ordinary fluctuations. Ocean temperatures fluctuate according to natural cycles as well, although studies have shown an overall increase in North Atlantic sea surface temperatures, a trend that has been linked to manmade global warming.
But Alex Grinsted of the University of Copenhagen and his colleagues came at the problem in an entirely different way. They looked not at hurricanes themselves, but at the storm surgestropical storms drive before them as they come ashore, and surges have been reliably measured by devices known as tide gauges all the way back to the 1920's.
“Using surges as an indicator,” Grinsted said in an interview, “we see an increase in all magnitudes of storms when ocean temperatures are warmer.” As ocean temperatures have risen inexorably higher in the general warming of the planet due to human greenhouse-gas emissions, the scientists concluded, hurricane numbers have moved upward as well. The implication: they’ll keep increasing along with global temperatures unless emissions are cut significantly.
There’s one obvious caveat about the new results: not every hurricane creates a storm surge, since they don’t always hit land. And not every storm surge is caused by a hurricane. “The storm surge index,” Grinsted said, “is sensitive to strong winter storms as well.” And it’s quite possible, he said, that the intensity of a given storm surge could be made greater or less by the angle at which a hurricane hits land.
Surges aren’t, in short, a perfect stand-in for hurricanes, but Grinsted said that they’re pretty good. In cases where they could do so, the team has lined up hurricane data with surge data, and, he said, “there are clear correlations. So while our paper might not explain everything, it is still useful."

overuse of antibiotics in meat production

Clicking here will automatically add your name to this petition to Trader Joe’s :»Trader Joe’s, I urge you to source and sell only meat and poultry raised without antibiotics.»Automatically add your name:Learn more about this campaignTrader Joe’s has t…



Tell Trader Joe's: Stop selling meat raised with antibiotics!
Clicking here will automatically add your name to this petition to Trader Joe's :
"Trader Joe's, I urge you to source and sell only meat and poultry raised without antibiotics."
Automatically add your name:
Take action now!
CREDO Action | more than a network, a movement.
Dear Friend,
Earlier this month, medical researchers at the University of Montreal linked a difficult-to-treat bladder infection that affects millions of women a year with a form of antibiotic-resistant E. coli commonly found in chicken.1
This is just one of a growing number of stories about the rise of antibiotic resistant superbugs making humans sick, which researchers are increasingly connecting with the rampant overuse of antibiotics in meat production.
This is an emergency situation. But federal regulators appear incapable of overcoming pressure from the Big Meat and pharmaceutical lobbies.
It's time for major retailers like Trader Joe's to step up and help get antibiotics out of our food.
CREDO is joining with Consumers Union2 and other groups to call on Trader Joe's to sell only antibiotic-free meat because the company has shown a commitment to safe food in the past — including sourcing only non-GMO ingredients, and meat free of pink slime.
And because the company sells most of its products under its own label, Trader Joe's has direct control of its supply chain.
The company already sells some meat that does not contain antibiotics, but going all the way would create a powerful incentive for other retailers to follow suit, by meeting the strong consumer demand for meat raised without antibiotics.3
Antibiotics are a crucial tool to cure illness for all of us. And whether or not you eat meat, we're all endangered by the antibiotic-resistant bacteria that continue emerging as a result of antibiotic overuse on factory farms.
80% of all antibiotics are currently fed to livestock — primarily as a growth stimulant and to compensate for filthy, cruel living conditions. That needs to stop.
More than 100,000 CREDO members submitted a public comment to the FDA earlier this month urging the agency to strengthen its voluntary and inadequate antibiotics standards.
While we wait for FDA's response, Trader Joe's can show its commitment to food safety, and start moving meat producers away from their dangerous use of antibiotics.
Click below to automatically sign the petition to Trader Joe's now:
http://act.credoaction.com/r/?r=6919616&p=tjs_meat&id=44141-5154581-Aks%3Dt7x&t=10
Thank you for fighting for save and healthy food.
Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager 
CREDO Action from Working Assets

The Information Awareness Office

This week, President Obama is in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly to meet with partners and address a range of issues with the international community, including open government.At the U.N. General Assembly last year, Presi…



This week, President Obama is in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly to meet with partners and address a range of issues with the international community, including open government.

At the U.N. General Assembly last year, President Obama called on nations to make, "specific commitments to promote transparency, to fight corruption, to energize civic engagement, and to leverage new technologies so we can strengthen the foundations of freedom in our own countries." Today, the President outlined the progress that has already been made in response to his call to action:
And now we see governments around the world meeting this challenge, including many represented here today. Countries from Mexico to Turkey to Liberia have passed laws guaranteeing citizens the right to information. From Chile to Kenya to the Philippines, civil society groups are giving citizens new tools to report corruption. From Tanzania to Indonesia -- and as I saw firsthand during my visit to India -- rural villages are organizing and making their voices heard, and getting the public services that they need. Governments from Brazil to South Africa are putting more information online, helping people hold public officials accountable for how they spend taxpayer dollars.
Here in the United States, we’ve worked to make government more open and responsive than ever before. We’ve been promoting greater disclosure of government information, empowering citizens with new ways to participate in their democracy. We are releasing more data in usable forms on health and safety and the environment, because information is power, and helping people make informed decisions and entrepreneurs turn data into new products, they create new jobs. We’re also soliciting the best ideas from our people in how to make government work better. And around the world, we’re standing up for freedom to access information, including a free and open Internet.


"A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives."
James Madison, Letter to W. T. Barry, August 4, 1822

"...[T]he concentration of power and the subjection of individuals will increase amongst democratic nations... in the same proportion as their ignorance."
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Vol. 2, 1840

In a democracy, the principle of accountability holds that government officials—whether elected or appointed by those who have been elected—are responsible to the citizenry for their decisions and actions.

Transparency requires that the decisions and actions of those in government are open to public scrutiny and that the public has a right to access such information. Both concepts are central to the very idea of democratic governance. Without accountability and transparency, democracy is impossible. In their absence, elections and the notion of the will of the people have no meaning, and government has the potential to become arbitrary and self-serving.

The People's Right to Know

Elections are the primary means for citizens to hold their country's officials accountable for their actions in office, especially when they have behaved illegally, corruptly, or ineptly while carrying out the work of the government. But for elections—and the people's will—to be meaningful, basic rights must be protected and affirmed, such as with a Bill of Rights, as in the United States. James Madison, the author of the U.S. Bill of Rights, believed that the very basis for government's responsiveness was the assurance that citizens would have sufficient knowledge to direct it. If citizens are to govern their own affairs, either directly or through representative government, they must be informed about how best to determine their affairs and how best to represent and execute them. If citizens are not well informed, they can neither act in their own self-interest, broadly speaking, nor have any serious choice in elections, much less offer themselves as candidates.



The Information Awareness Office (IAO) was established by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in January 2002 to bring together several DARPA projects focused on applying surveillance and information technology to track and monitor terrorists and other asymmetric threats to national security, by achieving Total Information Awareness (TIA). This would be achieved by creating enormous computer databases to gather and store the personal information of everyone in the United States, including personal e-mails, social networks, credit card records, phone calls, medical records, and numerous other sources, without any requirement for a search warrant.[1] This information would then be analyzed to look for suspicious activities, connections between individuals, and "threats".[2] Additionally, the program included funding for biometric surveillance technologies that could identify and track individuals using surveillance cameras, and other methods.[2]

Following public criticism that the development and deployment of these technologies could potentially lead to a mass surveillance system, the IAO was defunded by Congress in 2003. However, several IAO projects continued to be funded, and merely run under different names.[3][4][5][6]




One common form of surveillance is to create maps of social networks based on data from social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter as well as from traffic analysis information from phone call records such as those in the NSA call database,[38] and others. These social network "maps" are then data mined to extract useful information such as personal interests, friendships & affiliations, wants, beliefs, thoughts, and activities.[39][40][41][42]
Many U.S. government agencies such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are investing heavily in research involving social network analysis.[43][44] The intelligence community believes that the biggest threat to U.S. power comes from decentralized, leaderless, geographically dispersed groups of terrorists, subversives, extremists, and dissidents. These types of threats are most easily countered by finding important nodes in the network, and removing them. To do this requires a detailed map of the network.[41][42][45][46]
Jason Ethier of Northeastern University, in his study of modern social network analysis, said the following of the Scalable Social Network Analysis Program developed by the Information Awareness Office:
The purpose of the SSNA algorithms program is to extend techniques of social network analysis to assist with distinguishing potential terrorist cells from legitimate groups of people.... In order to be successful SSNA will require information on the social interactions of the majority of people around the globe. Since the Defense Department cannot easily distinguish between peaceful citizens and terrorists, it will be necessary for them to gather data on innocent civilians as well as on potential terrorists.
—Jason Ethier[41]
AT&T developed a programming language called "Hancock", which is able to sift through enormous databases of phone call and Internet traffic records, such as the NSA call database, and extract "communities of interest" -- groups of people who call each other regularly, or groups that regularly visit certain sites on the Internet. AT&T originally built the system to develop "marketing leads",[47] but the FBI has regularly requested such information from phone companies such as AT&T without a warrant,[47] and after using the data stores all information received in its own databases, regardless of whether or not the information was ever useful in an investigation.[48]
Some people believe that the use of social networking sites is a form of "participatory surveillance", where users of these sites are essentially performing surveillance on themselves, putting detailed personal information on public websites where it can be viewed by corporations and governments.[39] About 20% of employers have reported using social networking sites to collect personal data on prospective or current employees.[49]

An outlier

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/opinion/the-yawning-loophole-in-the-gun-laws.html The Brady gun control law, named for the White House official who was shot during an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, requires licensed gun dealers to screen all prospective gun buyers through a federal database of convicted felons, … Continue reading

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/opinion/the-yawning-loophole-in-the-gun-laws.html

The Brady gun control law, named for the White House official who was shot during an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, requires licensed gun dealers to screen all prospective gun buyers through a federal database of convicted felons, drug abusers, people with a serious mental illness and others. In addition, the law requires licensed dealers to collect information about buyers that can be used later to trace guns that were used in crimes. From 1994 to 2009, those checks have prevented nearly two million gun sales, according to the Justice Department.

But the law does not cover private sales of guns, including transactions by “occasional sellers” at gun shows and flea markets, in what has become a gaping loophole that has allowed teenagers, ordinary criminals, terrorists, Mexican drug cartels and arms traffickers to have easy access to weapons. For instance, firearms bought at gun showswere used in the Columbine school shooting; they have been found in a shipment of arms supplies to the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah; and they have made their way across the border to Mexico.

But none of those examples have stopped the National Rifle Association and its supporters in Congress from blocking legislation that would require private sellers to run buyers through background checks, which take just a few minutes to process on the telephone. The N.R.A., emboldened by a Supreme Court ruling asserting an individual constitutional right to bear arms, has turned its attention to further broadening the market, lobbying state legislatures to allow concealed weapons in churches, schools and other public places and to restrict the discretion of local police in granting gun permits.

In the case of background checks on private sales, the N.R.A. has argued that checks are not needed because surveys of criminals suggest that just 2 percent of them buy their weapons from gun shows. This is a highly disingenuous argument because criminals most often purchase firearms from relatives, friends and associates. Many of those people, in turn, get their supplies from gun shows and elsewhere, including on the Internet where anybody with a credit card can order semiautomatic weapons for overnight delivery.

Requiring background checks for private sales will obviously not, on its own, keep people like Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old who perpetrated the massacre in Newtown, Conn., away from deadly weapons. For starters, only buyers of guns, not members of the families who own them (as was true in his case), are screened against the database known as theNational Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Moreover, many state governments and federal agencies have provided incomplete or no records to the system for various logistical, legal and financial reasons. But those flaws and limitations should not be a reason for lawmakers to exempt sales at gun shows, flea markets and at other venues from background checks, which are a simple and effective way to prevent many violent individuals from getting access to guns.

Since the Newtown shootings, the influence and power of the N.R.A. may have diminished as some of its usual allies have distanced themselves from its hard-line position. Cerberus Capital Management, a private equity firm, said on Tuesday that it would sell its stake in Freedom Group, the maker of the Bushmaster rifle. And a Democratic state lawmaker in California, Kevin de León, introduced a bill that would require people buying ammunition to go through background checks. These are small but promising shoots. It is up to Congress and President Obama to nurture them.


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/opinion/the-gun-challenge-strict-laws-work.html

Experts from the Harvard School of Public Health, using data from 26 developed countries, have shown that wherever there are more firearms, there are more homicides. In the case of the United States, exponentially more: the American murder rate is roughly 15 times that of other wealthy countries, which have much tougher laws controlling private ownership of guns.

There’s another important difference between this country and the rest of the world. Other nations have suffered similar rampages, but they have reacted quickly to impose new and stricter gun laws.

Australia is an excellent example. In 1996, a “pathetic social misfit,” as a judge described the lone gunman, killed 35 people with a spray of bullets from semiautomatic weapons. Within weeks, the Australian government was working on gun reform laws that banned assault weapons and shotguns, tightened licensing and financed gun amnesty and buyback programs.

At the time, the prime minister, John Howard, said, “We do not want the American disease imported into Australia.” The laws have worked. The American Journal of Law and Economics reported in 2010 that firearm homicides in Australia dropped 59 percent between 1995 and 2006. In the 18 years before the 1996 laws, there were 13 gun massacres resulting in 102 deaths, according to Harvard researchers, with none in that category since.

Similarly, after 16 children and their teacher were killed by a gunman in Dunblane, Scotland, in 1996, the British government banned all private ownership of automatic weapons and virtually all handguns. Those changes gave Britain some of the toughest gun control laws in the developed world on top of already strict rules. Hours of exhaustive paperwork are required if anyone wants to own even a shotgun or rifle for hunting. The result has been a decline in murders involving firearms.

In Japan, which has very strict laws, only 11 people were killed with guns in 2008, compared with 12,000 deaths by firearms that year in the United States — a huge disparity even accounting for the difference in population. As Mayor Michael Bloomberg stressed on Monday while ratcheting up his national antigun campaign, “We are the only industrialized country that has this problem. In the whole world, the only one.”