USDA to Immediately Assist Producers for Qualifying Livestock, Honeybee and Farm-raised Fish Program Losses

WASHINGTON, April 9, 2018 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will issue $34 million to help agricultural producers recover from 2017 natural disasters through the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP), which covers losses not covered by certain other USDA disaster assistance programs. These payments are being made available today, and they are part of a broader USDA effort to help producers recover from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, wildfires and drought. A large portion of this assistance will be made available in federally designated disaster areas.

“From Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, through the South, the Southwest, California and the Great Plains, American agriculture was devastated by natural disasters in 2017,” said Bill Northey, Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation. “The Trump Administration is moving quickly to distribute financial assistance to help producers recover and rebuild.  It is important to get this help to producers in time for the spring planting season.”

ELAP aims to help eligible producers of livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish for losses due to disease, certain adverse weather events or loss conditions, including blizzards and wildfires, as determined by the Secretary. ELAP assistance is provided for losses not covered by other disaster assistance programs such as the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) and the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP).

The increased amount of assistance through ELAP was made possible by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, signed earlier this year. The Act amended the 2014 Farm Bill to enable USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) to provide assistance to producers without an annual funding cap and immediately for 2017. It also enables FSA to pay ELAP applications as they are filed for 2018 and subsequent program years.

Other USDA Disaster Assistance Programs
The Act removed program year payment limitations and increased the acreage cap for the Tree Assistance Program (TAP), a nationwide program that provides owners of orchards, vineyards and nurseries with cost share assistance to replant eligible trees, bushes, and vines following a natural disaster. For example, the program will help owners of citrus groves in Florida, avocado trees in California, coffee plantations in Puerto Rico and vineyards reduce the cost of replanting, and speed recovery from the loss of fruit and nut trees, bushes, and vines.

Prior to the Act, there was a combined program year payment limitation of $125,000 for ELAP, LIP and LFP per person or legal entity. The Tree Assistance Program (TAP) had its own $125,000 payment limitation.  The Act removed the program year per person and legal entity payment limitation for LIP and TAP.  As a result of the Act, a $125,000 per person and legal entity single payment limitation applies to the total amount of program year payments received under both ELAP and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) and program payments under LIP and TAP no longer have payment limits.

Under the updated program, as amended by the Act, growers are eligible to be partly reimbursed for losses on up to 1,000 acres per program year, double the previous acreage limit of 500 acres.

In total, it is estimated that the Act will enable USDA to provide more than $3 billion in disaster assistance, including the $2.36 billion announced last week to be made available through FSA’s new 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program. This includes $400 million made available for the Emergency Conservation Program, which helps farmers and ranchers repair damage to farmlands caused by natural disasters. As signups across the country are completed, additional applications will be funded.

According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States was impacted by 16 separate billion-dollar disaster events in 2017 including: three tropical cyclones, eight severe storms, two inland floods, a crop freeze, drought and wildfire. More than 25 million people – almost eight percent of the population – were affected by major disasters. From severe flooding in Puerto Rico and Texas to mudslides and wildfires in California, major natural disasters caused catastrophic damages, with an economic impact totaling more than $300 billion.

For Assistance
Producers with operations impacted by natural disasters and diseases in 2018 are encouraged to contact their local USDA service center to apply for assistance through ELAP, TAP, LIP and LFP. Producers with 2017 ELAP claims need to take no action as FSA will begin paying those claims today.

WHY THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT OPPOSES PORNOGRAPHY BUT STILL SUPPORTS TRUMP

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Stormy Daniels, an adult star, at a local restaurant in downtown New Orleans. AP Photo/Bill Haber

Kelsy Burke, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Many commentators have pointed out the hypocrisy of Christian leaders who claim a moral high ground while supporting President Donald Trump. The latest scandal involving an alleged extramarital affair with pornographic film star Stormy Daniels proves no exception.

The Christian right that supports Trump has found ways to justify their support of the president, for example, with analogies of how God used King David, a man with personal flaws, for the greater good of the country.

All the while, however, evangelical leaders remain definitively opposed to pornography. In the words of an evangelical celebrity and outspoken opponent of pornography, Josh McDowell, it is “probably the greatest problem or threat to the Christian faith in the history of the world.”

As a sociologist who studies how evangelicals talk about sex,
I see evangelical Trump supporters’ reaction to the latest Stormy Daniels scandal as fitting right into how evangelical Christians have responded to pornography in recent history.

The Christian anti-pornography movement

Christian opposition to pornography has long been connected to larger efforts to impose Protestant morality onto American politics and culture. Sociologist Joseph Gusfield would call it a “symbolic crusade” – which is less about porn per se and more about broader social concerns over changing gender roles, sexual norms and family life.

in the 1980s, evangelical Protestants mobilized against the sexual revolution of the 1970s. One of their targets was the pornography industry that had grown with the invention of the VCR and led to pornographic videos entering American homes.

Along with other anti-pornography organizations, the fundamentalist Protestant political organization, the Moral Majority, supported efforts to enforce and increase obscenity laws to regulate and reduce pornography.

The Moral Majority’s platform linked pornography with their other concerns, suggesting that pornography, just like homosexuality or abortion, contributed to the moral decline of America.

More recently, evangelical and Latter-day Saints or Mormon politicians have been urging states across the country to pass resolutions declaring pornography to be “a public health crisis.”

All these political efforts sent a straightforward message: Porn is bad.

Evangelical self-help and sex advice

But the story is not so simple. In the 1970s, an evangelical self-help and sex-advice industry emerged that put a religious twist on a cultural obsession with personal and relationship satisfaction and happiness.

At the time, authors like conservative political activists Tim and Beverly LaHaye and Focus on the Family founder James Dobson acknowledged that porn was a problem that Christians (almost always men but on occasion women) faced. Their writing focused on how pornography harmed marital relationships and personal well-being. At the same time, however, it described how devout Christians may be pornography consumers.

While clearly opposing the consumption of porn, self-help and sex advice book authors also normalized it. In their book, “Pure Eyes: A Man’s Guide to Sexual Integrity,” evangelical writers Craig Gross (also founder of the anti-porn website XXX Church) and Steven Luff asked their readers directly,

“Are you ready to admit … that you struggle with something that almost any man could be tempted by?”

How evangelicals relate to porn

Today, there are evangelical books, websites, conferences and small groups to support evangelicals who are troubled by their own pornography use.

Such resources describe pornography as potentially “addictive” and a ubiquitous temptation in our technology-driven world. Indeed, as sociologist Samuel Perry finds, even conservative Protestants who believe pornography is “always morally wrong” are only “somewhat less likely” to consume pornography compared to other Americans. He calls this “moral incongruence” and explains how conservative Protestants’ “avoidance of pornography does not (and perhaps cannot) keep pace with their professed opposition to it.”

This moral incongruence has changed how evangelicals relate to pornography. The moral conviction against porn remains strong, but there is also sympathy for its consumers.

Evangelical logic supposes that giving into sexual temptations is part of the human condition. ruperto miller

Whereas non-evangelicals may observe a contradiction when it comes to supporting both Christian values and President Trump, I have found in my research that conservative evangelicals don’t have to see it that way. Their logic supposes that giving into sexual temptations is part of the human condition: People are prone to sin and must seek forgiveness and support.

The ConversationA man like Donald Trump, in other words, could benefit from the pages of evangelical self-help books. But his sexual failings needn’t get in the way of conservative politics.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

USDA ANNOUNCES LOAN RATES FOR WHEAT – FEED GRAINS – OILSEEDS – RICE AND PULSE CROPS

WASHINGTON, March 29, 2018 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Commodity Credit Corporation today announced the 2018 marketing assistance loan rates by:

  • County for wheat, corn, grain sorghum, barley, oats, soybeans and each “other oilseed” (canola, crambe, flaxseed, mustard seed, rapeseed, safflower, sesame seed and sunflower seed);
  • Region for pulses (dry peas, lentils, small chickpeas and large chickpeas); and
  • State for rough rice.

The rates are posted on the Farm Service Agency (FSA) website at www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/price-support/commodity-loan-rates/index.

Marketing assistance loans provide interim financing to producers so that commodities can be stored after harvest when market prices are typically low, to be sold later when price conditions are more favorable.

2018 Wheat, Feed Grains and Oilseeds National Loan Rates
Wheat $2.94 per bushel
Corn $1.95 per bushel
Grain Sorghum $1.95 per bushel
Barley $1.95 per bushel
Oats $1.39 per bushel
Soybeans $5.00 per bushel
Other Oilseeds $10.09 per hundredweight (cwt.) for each “other oilseed”

Marketing assistance loans for the 2018 barley, canola, crambe, flaxseed, oats, rapeseed, sesame seed, and wheat crops are available through March 31, 2019, and for the 2018 corn, grain sorghum, mustard seed, safflower, soybean and sunflower seed crops through May 31, 2019.

2018 Rough Rice Loan Rates by State and Class
State Long Grain Rice Medium Grain Rice
$ per cwt.
Arkansas 6.48 6.31
California 6.34 6.56
Louisiana 6.47 6.52
Mississippi 6.53 6.50
Missouri 6.48 6.50
Texas 6.70 6.50
U.S. Average 6.50 6.50
U.S. loan rate applies to all other states.

Medium grain includes short grain.

For warehouse-stored loans, national loan rates for whole and broken kernels are used to establish loan proceeds based on the milling out-turns reported on the warehouse receipt. Marketing assistance loans for the 2018 rice crop are available through May 31, 2019. The loan rate for long grain whole kernels is $10.08 per cwt.; for medium grain (including short grain), $9.67 per cwt.; and for broken kernels (all classes), $6.14 per cwt.

2018 Regional Pulse Crop Loan Rates
Crop East Region

Loan Rate

West Region

Loan Rate

National

Loan Rate

$/cwt.
Dry Peas 5.35 5.74 5.40
Lentils 11.19 11.96 11.28
Large Chickpeas 11.28 11.28 11.28
Small Chickpeas 7.43 7.43 7.43

The West region includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington. The East region includes Montana, North Dakota and other states not included in the West region. The rate for small and large chickpeas applies to all states and counties. Marketing assistance loans for the 2018 pulse crops are available through May 31, 2019.

For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill. To learn more about FSA, visit www.fsa.usda.gov.

“CHICKEN HAWK” FOX NEWS COMMENTATOR JOHN BOLTON NAMED NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR AFTER TRUMP FIRES H.R. MCMASTERS

 

He made the case last month for striking North Korea ‘first’

Citing preemptive strikes by Israel on Syrian (2007) and Iraqi (1981) reactor sites, Bolton in February of this year — less than four weeks ago — made a case in the Wall Street Journal for a potential US attack on North Korea:
“Pre-emption opponents argue that action is not justified because Pyongyang does not constitute an ‘imminent threat.’ They are wrong. The threat is imminent, and the case against pre-emption rests on the misinterpretation of a standard that derives from prenuclear, pre-ballistic-missile times. Given the gaps in U.S. intelligence about North Korea, we should not wait until the very last minute. That would risk striking after the North has deliverable nuclear weapons, a much more dangerous situation.”

He said a diplomatic option for dealing with North Korea was to ‘end the regime’

Asked by a Fox News host if there were any “diplomatic options” remaining in the nuclear standoff with North Korea, Bolton suggested this:
Bolton: “I think the only diplomatic option left is to end the regime in North Korea by effectively having the South take it over. You’ve got to argue with China–“
Fox News host Trish Regan: “That’s not really diplomatic! (Laughing) As far as they’re concerned.”
Bolton: “Well, that’s their problem, not ours. Anybody who thinks that more diplomacy with North Korea, more sanctions, whether against North Korea, or an effort to apply sanctions against China, is just giving North Korea more time to increase its nuclear arsenal…”

NCAI Releases Five-Year Report on Tribal Governments Exercising VAWA 2013 Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction Over Non-Indians

WASHINGTON, D.C. |  The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) has released a new report summarizing results of the first five years of tribal government-expanded criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians under the tribal provisions of the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA 2013).

The report was released in conjunction with the March 19th Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on “The Need to Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.”

VAWA 2013 created a framework for tribal courts to prosecute non-Indians for certain violent crimes against Indian citizens—something that has not happened in 35 years, since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Oliphant v. Suquamish Tribe reversed this sovereign jurisdictionVAWA 2013 recognized and affirmed the inherent sovereign authority of tribal nations to exercise criminal jurisdiction over certain non-Indians who commit domestic or dating violence against Indian victims on tribal lands.

NCAI works closely with the 18 tribal nations who have arrested non-Indians under this landmark provision. These tribes report 143 arrests of 128 different non-Indian abusers. These arrests have led to 74 convictions and 5 acquittals to date, with some cases still pending. VAWA 2013 has allowed tribes to finally prosecute these long-time abusers who previously had evaded justice, and provide increased safety and justice for victims who previously had little recourse against their abusers. The report highlights specific examples illustrating successes as well as gaps in the law that Congress should address.

The report documents how committed each tribe has been to successfully implementing VAWA and ensuring the effective administration of justice in their communities. Not only do non-Indian offenders receive a fair day in court, but many tribes include broader resources aligned with cultural values for community wellness to ensure that these defendants receive help and support. Fifty one percent of the defendants were sentenced to batterer intervention or other rehabilitation programs as a part of their tribal court sentences.

“The success of VAWA 2013 demonstrates that tribes can and will provide effective justice to their communities, and fair process to all those who appear in tribal courts,” said NCAI President Jefferson Keel.

VAWA 2013 only allows tribal courts to prosecute non-Indians for a narrow set of crimes. The report also documents the limitations of the law, including the lack of tribal court jurisdiction over crimes against children, law enforcement personnel, and sexual assault crimes committed by strangers. Tribes express continued frustration at their inability to prosecute these crimes—many of which occur in conjunction with a domestic violence offense—often with dangerous and devastating consequences for victims. Many tribes also report that a lack of funding is the only thing preventing them from implementing VAWA. “NCAI and its member tribal nations stand ready to advocate for further expansions of this law to ensure public safety and justice in Indian Country,” said Juana Majel-Dixon, Co-Chair of the NCAI Task Force on Violence Against Women.

This project was supported by the Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice however this report does not necessarily reflect the view of the Department of Justice.

100 YEARS LATER THE MADNESS OF DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME ENDURES

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Unfortunately, there’s not an unlimited amount of daylight that we can squeeze out of our clocks. igorstevanovic/Shutterstock.com

By Michael Downing, Tufts University

One hundred years after Congress passed the first daylight saving legislation, lawmakers in Florida this week passed the “Sunshine Protection Act,” which will make daylight saving a year-round reality in the Sunshine State.

If approved by the federal government, this will effectively move Florida’s residents one time zone to the east, aligning cities from Jacksonville to Miami with Nova Scotia rather than New York and Washington, D.C.

The cost of rescheduling international and interstate business and commerce hasn’t been calculated. Instead, relying on the same overly optimistic math that led the original proponents of daylight saving to predict vast energy savings, crisper farm products harvested before the morning dew dried and lessened eye strain for industrial workers, Florida legislators are lauding the benefits of putting “more sunshine in our lives.”

It’s absurd – and fitting – that a century later, opponents and supporters of daylight saving are still not sure exactly what it does. Despite its name, daylight saving has never saved anyone anything. But it has proven to be a fantastically effective retail spending plan.

Making the trains run on time

For centuries people set their clocks and watches by looking up at the sun and estimating, which yielded wildly dissimilar results between (and often within) cities and towns.

To railroad companies around the world, that wasn’t acceptable. They needed synchronized, predictable station times for arrivals and departures, so they proposed splitting up the globe into 24 time zones.

In 1883, the economic clout of the railroads allowed them to replace sun time with standard time with no legislative assistance and little public opposition. The clocks were calm for almost 30 years, apart from an annual debate in the British Parliament over whether to pass a Daylight Saving Act. While proponents argued that shoving clocks ahead during summer months would reduce energy consumption and encourage outdoor recreation, the opposition won out.

Then, in 1916, Germany suddenly adopted the British idea in hopes of conserving energy for its war effort. Within a year, Great Britain followed suit. And despite fanatical opposition from the farm lobby, so would the United States.

From patriotic duty to moneymaking scheme

A law requiring Americans to lose an hour was confounding enough. But Congress also tacked on the legal mandate for the four continental time zones. The patriotic rationale for daylight saving went like this: Shifting one hour of available light from the very early morning (when most Americans were asleep) would reduce the demand for domestic electrical power used to illuminate homes in the evening, which would spare more energy for the war effort.

On March 19, 1918, Woodrow Wilson signed the Calder Act requiring Americans to set their clocks to standard time; less than two weeks later, on March 31, they would be required to abandon standard time and push their clocks ahead by an hour for the nation’s first experiment with daylight saving.

It didn’t go smoothly. In 1918, Easter Sunday fell on March 31, which led to a lot of latecomers to church services. Enraged rural and evangelical opponents thereafter blamed daylight saving for subverting sun time, or “God’s time.” Newspapers were deluged by letter writers complaining that daylight saving upset astronomical data and made almanacs useless, prevented Americans from enjoying the freshest early morning air, and even browned out lawns unaccustomed to so much daylight.

Within a year, daylight saving was repealed. But like most weeds, the practice thrived by neglect.

In 1920, New York and dozens of other cities adopted their own metropolitan daylight saving policies. The Chamber of Commerce spurred along this movement on behalf of department store owners, who had noticed that later sunset times encouraged people to stop and shop on their way home from work.

By 1965, 18 states observed daylight saving six months a year; some cities and towns in 18 other states observed daylight saving for four, five or six months a year; and 12 states stuck to standard time.

Actress Barbara Lawrence reminds television viewers to set the clock ahead, from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m., on April 29, 1956. AP Photo

This wasn’t exactly ideal. A 35-mile bus trip from Steubenville, Ohio, to Moundsville, West Virginia, passed through seven distinct local time zones. The U.S. Naval Observatory dubbed the world’s greatest superpower “the world’s worst timekeeper.”

So, in 1966, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which mandated six months of standard time and six of daylight saving.

Great for golf – but what about everyone else?

Why do we still do it?

Today we know that changing the clocks does influence our behavior. For example, later sunset times have dramatically increased participation in afterschool sports programs and attendance at professional sports events. In 1920, The Washington Post reported that golf ball sales in 1918 – the first year of daylight saving – increased by 20 percent.

And when Congress extended daylight saving from six to seven months in 1986, the golf industry estimated that extra month was worth as much as US$400 million in additional equipment sales and green fees. To this day, the Nielsen ratings for even the most popular television shows decline precipitously when we spring forward, because we go outside to enjoy the sunlight.

But the promised energy savings – the presenting rationale for the policy – have never materialized.

In fact, the best studies we have prove that Americans use more domestic electricity when they practice daylight saving. Moreover, when we turn off the TV and go to the park or the mall in the evening sunlight, Americans don’t walk. We get in our cars and drive. Daylight saving actually increases gasoline consumption, and it’s a fallacious substitute for genuine energy conservation policy.

Lawmakers in Florida, of all places, ought to know that year-round daylight saving is not such a bright idea – especially in December and January, when most residents of the Sunshine State won’t see sunrise until about 8 a.m.

On Jan. 8, 1974, Richard Nixon forced Floridians and the entire nation into a year-round daylight saving – a vain attempt to stave off an energy crisis and lessen the impact of an OPEC oil embargo.

But before the end of the first month of daylight saving that January, eight children died in traffic accidents in Florida, and a spokesperson for Florida’s education department attributed six of those deaths directly to children going to school in darkness.

The ConversationLesson learned? Apparently not.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

USDA ANNOUNCES MORE LOCAL CONTROL FOR SCHOOL MEAL OPERATIONS

WASHINGTON, March 5, 2018 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Secretary Steve Censky today announced two new efforts to provide states and school districts with additional flexibility and support to operate more efficient school meal programs. Censky made the announcement during a speech at the School Nutrition Association Legislative Action Conference in Washington, D.C.

Child Nutrition Hiring Flexibility Rule

In 2015, USDA established education and training requirements for nutrition professionals as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. While this strengthened many school meal programs, some small school districts faced challenges finding qualified applicants to direct their local food service operation. Today’s proposal would provide much-needed relief for school districts with less than 2,500 students, allowing them more flexibility in the hiring of new school nutrition program directors.

“Small and rural school districts will no longer have to overlook qualified food service professionals because of one-size-fits-all standards that don’t meet their needs,” said Censky. “We trust our local partners to hire talented school nutrition program directors who will manage the meal service in a way that protects the health and well-being of students.”

USDA is providing a 60-day public comment period and will then develop a final rule that responds to the needs of partners and stakeholders.

Child Nutrition Food Crediting Request for Information

To support states’ efforts to improve program integrity, USDA also rolled out a suite of customizable resources to help local school districts improve the accuracy of their school meal application processes. These resources include support for online applications, evidenced-based materials, and best practices to simplify the process for families and ensure that eligible children receive free and reduced-priced meals.

“USDA’s goal to do right and feed everyone starts with our children,” said Censky. “We are committed to giving states and school districts more tools and options to build a bright, self-sufficient future for America’s children through well-managed school meal programs.”

As part of this package, USDA is offering guidance to help schools utilize its award-winning, open-source online school meal application model. USDA developed the application with input from local food service professionals. The customer-friendly design of the model is intended to increase the integrity of the application process by reducing common mistakes families make when applying for free or reduced-priced school meals.

“These tools are the benchmark for future innovation and give schools 21st century resources and strategies to run efficient food service operations, now and into the future,” Censky said. “Schools can ensure the proper use of funds for feeding students in need, protecting the taxpayer dollar through high integrity programs.”

USDA invites software developers in private industry to join schools in delivering customer service by helping them tailor their own applications.

Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of recent USDA actions to expand flexibility and ease challenges for partners and stakeholders who help feed our nation’s children. Other actions include:

  • Publishing the School Meal Flexibility Rule, which provides local food service professionals the flexibility they need to serve wholesome, nutritious, and tasty meals in schools across the nation.
  • Releasing “The Food Buying Guide,” a mobile app that puts critical information at the fingertips of food service professionals and makes it easier for them to plan wholesome, nutritious, and tasty school meals.
  • Selecting Kansas State University to direct the Center for Food Safety in Child Nutrition Programs, which will help improve food safety across all of USDA’s child nutrition programs.
  • Inviting the public to submit ideas on food crediting, the system that defines how each food item contributes to meal requirements under the National School Lunch Program and other federal child nutrition programs.

About 100,000 schools and institutions feed 30 million children through the National School Lunch Program and nearly 15 million children through the School Breakfast Program. Many of these children receive their meals at no cost or for a reduced price according to income-based eligibility.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the Summer Food Service Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which together comprise America’s nutrition safety net.

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW HOW TO STOP SCHOOL SHOOTINGS, ASK THE SECRET SERVICE

The U.S. Secret Service released a study of school shootings in 2002. David Stuart Productions/Shutterstock.com

By Jeff Daniels
West Virginia University

While President Donald Trump has not shied away from offering suggestions on how to prevent school shootings – including one controversial idea to arm teachers – what often gets overlooked in the conversation is research on the subject that has already been done.

This research includes one major study of school shootings conducted in part by the very agency charged with protecting the president of the United States himself – the U.S. Secret Service.

Has this research been ignored or just forgotten? I raise the question as one who has studied averted school shootings and the news coverage that followed.

Two months after the Columbine tragedy in 1999, experts from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Secret Service collaborated to study the “school shooter” phenomenon. They published the study on their findings in 2002. The study focused on examining the thinking, planning and other behaviors of students who carried out school attacks. Particular attention was given to identifying pre-attack behaviors and communications that might be detectable – or “knowable” – and could help prevent future attacks.

The team studied 37 school shootings involving 41 attackers that took place from December 1974 through May 2000. Data included investigative, school, court and mental health records. In addition, 10 school shooters were interviewed to gain their perspectives from “conceptualization to execution” of the attacks. A series of findings emerged. In light of the Florida school shooting massacre and the fact that the alleged shooter drew a lot of attention prior to carrying out the shooting, those findings bear repeating here.

  1. “Incidents of targeted violence at school rarely were sudden, impulsive acts.” Most attackers progressed through a process that started with an idea, to a plan, to accessing weapons and ending with the attack. If noticed, this process may be interrupted at any time before the attack.
  2. “Prior to most incidents, other people knew about the attacker’s idea and/or plan to attack.” The implication is that schools must develop a culture that promotes student sharing of concerns about others. In studying schools that averted a shooting, I and other researchers found that a key factor was establishing trusting relationships with students. We also found that the notion of “snitching” needed to be reframed to being helpful. Unfortunately, it seems that in the case of the Parkland shooting, multiple people did come forward with concerns. The alleged shooter was on several different radars, but unless he was posing an imminent danger to himself or others, he couldn’t be jailed or forced to receive psychological services. It therefore becomes an issue of individual versus collective rights. Unless we are ready as a society to lock people up for disturbing communications, there will be some individuals who will fall through the proverbial cracks.
  3. Along similar lines, most attackers “engaged in some behavior prior to the incident that caused others concern or indicated a need for help.” Some of these behaviors included talking about bringing a gun to school, or warning friends to avoid a certain area of the school on a given day. The Parkland shooter had a history of violent and aggressive behavior, including Instagram posts about becoming a “professional school shooter.”
  4. While most attackers – 96 percent – were male, the report found that there “is no accurate or useful ‘profile’ of students who engaged in targeted school violence.” Three-quarters of the attackers were white; one-quarter of the attackers came from other racial and ethnic backgrounds, including African-American (12 percent), Hispanic (5 percent), Native Alaskan (2 percent), Native American (2 percent) and Asian (2 percent). Most came from intact families, were doing well in school and were not loners, according to the report.
  5. “Most attackers had difficulty coping with significant losses or personal failures. Moreover, many had considered or attempted suicide.” Knowing the students and what they are dealing with in their lives, such as parental divorce, ending of a relationship or other failures is important for getting help in a timely manner. The Parkland shooter’s adoptive mother died of pneumonia just three months prior to his deadly attack. And at age 5, he also witnessed his father die of a heart attack.
  6. “Many attackers felt bullied, persecuted or injured by others prior to the attack.” Almost two-thirds reported being targeted by others prior to the attack, with some claiming to have withstood severe bullying for a long time. There is evidence that Nikolas Cruz was often mocked for his odd behavior.

Following the publication of the Secret Service study on school shootings, my research on averted school shootings found that schools that prevented a shooting had done some of the things recommended by the Secret Service.

The ConversationThe case in Florida shows that many of these recommendations were followed and people spoke up when they saw something wrong. The issue is whether authorities need more power to intervene once they have been made aware of a potential threat, or whether they just need to do a better job with the power they already have.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

SOUTH DAKOTA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE TIM BJORKMAN CALLS FOR COMMON SENSE GUN LAW REFORMS

Tim Bjorkman South Dakota Democratic Candidate for Congress. (submitted photo)
I grew up around guns in rural South Dakota. I am a gun owner, an occasional hunter, and a 2nd Amendment supporter. Three of our sons served in the military and are gun enthusiasts. If anyone tried to take away a gun of mine they would have to fight me for it. As a judge I saw the effects of society’s propensity toward violence, sometimes but not always involving guns. The moment calls for honest discussion about how to prevent more senseless killings, and that discussion should take place with as little rancor and partisanship as possible.

First some facts: more people have died from gun violence since 1970 than in all American wars combined. We have far more guns and gun deaths than any other nation in the world: nearly six times the per capita rate of Canada, and nearly 16 times that of Germany.

Almost 2 in 3 of the 33,500 annual gun deaths are by suicide. Of the roughly 11,000 homicides, about half the victims are young males, and some 1,700 women are killed as the result of domestic violence. The horrendous mass shootings we have experienced have totaled about 320 deaths annually over the past 5 years – around 2% of all homicides; as an aside, about six Americans die annually at the hands of Islamic terrorists. Handguns are by far the most common weapon used in killings.

While about 90% of those who take their own lives suffer from a mental disorder, it is a much less common factor in homicides. As a judge, it became clear to me that the vast percentage of our overall crime problem, including violent crime, involved people who struggle with untreated addiction, often after experiencing a dysfunctional childhood.

Just as the types and causes of gun deaths vary, so the solutions will also be different. One thing is clear: we must learn to take better care of each other and seek to adopt policies that work for the wellbeing of ordinary Americans.

Our own Congressional delegation seems to agree, pointing to the role of mental illness; yet instead of promoting better mental healthcare, the majority in Congress has employed its efforts to reduce mental health funding, and to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which, importantly, provides coverage for mental health and addiction treatment in every policy.

So, what measures are most calculated to reduce gun violence? Sadly, we have far less data on this than we should because Congress has effectively banned the Center for Disease Control [CDC] from funding research on gun violence.

I advocate these first steps:

1.      A law mandating uniform background checks on all gun sales, with free service at sheriffs’ offices for private transfers and estate transfer exemptions; and improved sharing of information among reporting sources;
2.      Prohibiting any device, such as bump stocks, that converts a semi-automatic into an automatic weapon;
3.      Prohibiting individuals on the government’s terrorist watch list from buying firearms;
4.      Encouraging states to adopt red flag laws that allow a court to temporarily remove guns from a person who poses a danger, with mandatory database reporting and removal upon clearance by a medical specialist;
5.      Promoting interventions like the Sandy Hook Promise that identify and reach out to at-risk individuals, including restorative justice and anti-bullying programs;
6.      Committing our nation to a War on Mental Illness and to ensuring every American has affordable health coverage to treat it; and
7.      Importantly, removing the ban on the CDC studying firearm violence;

I will become a target of the NRA and its enormous political action committee.  That’s okay.  The NRA, like many other special interests, tends to bully politicians, which helps explain the absence of sound reform. This is one reason I refuse to take any PAC money.

I suspect that most South Dakotans are just as sick as I am of the endless slaughter of Americans, and are also tired of special interests controlling our Congress.

Two questions lie before us: do we have the courage as a nation to defeat the powerful special interests that have thwarted reform on this and so many other issues; and what kind of America will we leave behind for our children and grandchildren?

Tim Bjorkman lives in Canistota. He is a former circuit court judge and the Democratic candidate for Congress.