25th Annual Leaf Lookers GEMBOREE :: Friday, October 17 - Sunday, October 19 at the Macon County Community Building

- published 8/21 (Larry) old link: http://www1.cfnc.org/applications/NC_Community_College/apply.html?application_id=1527

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Opinion

Just as the 9/11 terrorist attacks created a watershed between the freedoms we enjoyed and our awareness of America’s vulnerability to attack, so the spate of school shootings over the past 10- plus years from Columbine to Newtown has drastically altered the way young people are perceived and treated, transforming them from innocent bystanders into both victims and culprits. Consequently, school officials, attempting to both protect and control young people, have adopted draconian zero tolerance policies, stringent security measures and cutting-edge technologies that have all but transformed the schools into quasi-prisons.

In their zeal to make the schools safer, school officials have succumbed to a near-manic paranoia about anything even remotely connected to guns and violence, such that a child who brings a piece of paper loosely shaped like a gun to school is treated as harshly as the youngster who brings an actual gun. Yet by majoring in minors, as it were, treating all students as suspects and harshly punishing kids for innocent mistakes, the schools are setting themselves and us up for failure—not only by focusing on the wrong individuals and allowing true threats to go undetected but also by treating young people as if they have no rights, thereby laying the groundwork for future generations that are altogether ignorant of their rights as citizens and unprepared to defend them.

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Lance Armstrong’s metamorphosis from one of the greatest and admired athletes of all time to one of the greatest cheats in sports history, is fascinating. His Mount Olympus sports-world residency exceeded the quality of his perceived character.

If Lance had simply been lying concerning his constant denials of doping, I could be more sympathetic. However, he wasn't content with merely circumventing the cycling rules like many of his competitors had done. Armstrong was as aggressive using the media and legal system to squash those who dared tell the truth about him as he was conquering the mountains in his numerous Tour de France victories. Excuse me – non-victories. Now, with a measure of poetic justice, the Armstrong lawsuits are not being initiated by him but against him.

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Are you willing to wear a surgical mask during the winter to help prevent the spread of influenza? Since I've not seen a single mask in public, I'll go out on a limb and say the answer is no. While a mask may be of limited value in preventing the wearer from coming down with the flu, it serves as a barrier for the infected. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Most experts think that flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk." The CDC also says that the flu can be transmitted up to six feet away. To be sure, there are probably people you would like to maintain that distance from, but for the most part, it would be a sad way to conduct your everyday affairs. Rather than adopt a germophobia outlook, most people take a prudent and rational approach to the flu that may include a vaccination as well as good personal hygiene and staying home when ill.

This year's prospect of a severe flu season is but one of a myriad of dangers that each person evaluates and eventually is tallied on a collective scorecard of perceived threats to society. In the aftermath of the Newtown shooting, school safety is one such threat that is once again being scrutinized. Renewed arguments for limiting or banning firearms are converging with calls for putting guns in the schools, usually in the form of placing law enforcement officers on site to protect students.

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“The Fourth Amendment was designed to stand between us and arbitrary governmental authority. For all practical purposes, that shield has been shattered, leaving our liberty and personal integrity subject to the whim of every cop on the beat, trooper on the highway and jail official. The framers would be appalled.” —Herman Schwartz, The Nation

If you want a recipe for disaster, take police officers hyped up on their own authority and the power of the badge, throw in a few court rulings suggesting that security takes precedence over individual rights, set it against a backdrop of endless wars and militarized law enforcement, and then add to the mix a populace distracted by entertainment, out of touch with the workings of their government, and more inclined to let a few sorry souls suffer injustice than to challenge the status quo.

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