Landlord kills tenants over important stuff – like shoveling snow!

Derrick Thompson and Alivia Welch

A 74-year-old US landlord has shot dead two teenage tenants after an argument about snow-shovelling, police say.

James Pak walked into the couple’s flat attached to his house in Maine, and said he was going to shoot them before carrying out his threat, police said.

He has been charged with murdering 19-year-old Derrick Thompson, and his girlfriend, Alivia Welch, 18.

Mr Thompson’s mother, Susan Johnson, survived Saturday’s shootings by playing dead after she was shot.

The 44-year-old, who shared the Biddeford flat with the two victims and her six-year-old son, said she had hidden behind a Christmas tree.

Police had been called to the home after Mr Thompson reported Mr Pak was threatening him and banging on windows, but they left when the teenager told them he did not fear his landlord.

Moments later, they received a call from Ms Johnson telling them of the shootings.

They had reportedly been arguing over late rent, shovelling snow and parking cars in the drive, police said.

If the only tool you own is a hammer, all questions look like nails.

If the only tool you care to own to resolve arguments is a gun, everyone else begins to look like victims.

Gay couples ring in New Year with love and marriage

Jim Scales and William Tasker have been a couple for 35 years, but only on Tuesday were they able to legally marry, thanks to Maryland’s new same-sex marriage law, which went into effect with the new year.

Maryland was among three states this past November where voters approved laws allowing same-sex marriages.

At Baltimore City Hall, a celebration erupted with the first official marriage ceremonies just after midnight…Scales and Tasker made up the first couple in Baltimore to marry under the new law.

“Jim and I met in 1977 and at that time I just didn’t really believe that gay people would ever see the day when they could marry,” Tasker told CNN affiliate WBAL.

Scales agreed: “This is as happy as I’ve ever been, to be able to spend the rest of my life with Bill — legally — and to show the rest of the gay community that this can be done.”

Seven couples exchanged vows in Baltimore in the first hours of the new year.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake opened City Hall for the couples, and officiated the ceremonies herself.

“It’s a very emotional night, an incredibly meaningful night,” she said. “There’s so many people who have a chance now to have the life they have wanted for themselves and for their family, and I’m so proud of Maryland, that we chose equality over hate.”

In many other states – led by Christian fundamentalists – peers in ignorance continued to embrace hatred, fear of equal opportunity inscribed within our constitution. An historic document given little more than lip service by politicians who trot out the Bill of Rights whenever running for election.

Pregnancy rates fall as Hispanics choose smaller families

The Pope and the Republican Party says – this is the enemy!

Hispanic women in the United States, who have generally had the highest fertility rates in the country, are choosing to have fewer children. Both immigrant and native-born Latinas had steeper birthrate declines from 2007 to 2010 than other groups, including non-Hispanic whites, blacks and Asians, a drop some demographers and sociologists attribute to changes in the views of many Hispanic women about motherhood…

The decline in birthrates was steepest among Mexican-American women and women who immigrated from Mexico, at 25.7 percent. This has reversed a trend in which immigrant mothers accounted for a rising share of births in the United States, according to a recent report by the Pew Research Center. In 2010, birthrates among all Hispanics reached their lowest level in 20 years, the center found.

The sudden drop-off, which coincided with the onset of the recession, suggests that attitudes have changed since the days when older generations of Latinos prized large families and more closely followed Roman Catholic teachings, which forbid artificial contraception…

Interviews with young Latinas, as well as reproductive health experts, show that the reasons for deciding to have fewer children are many, involving greater access to information about contraceptives and women’s health, as well as higher education…

Prolonged recessions do produce dips in the birthrate, but a drop as large as Latinos have experienced is atypical, said William H. Frey, a sociologist and demographer at the Brookings Institution…

But to Mr. Frey, the decrease has signaled much about the aspirations of young Latinos to become full and permanent members of the upwardly mobile middle class, despite the challenges posed by the struggling economy.

According to research by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, the overwhelming majority of Latinas have used contraception at some point in their lives, but they face economic barriers to consistent use. As a consequence, Latinas still experience unintended pregnancy at a rate higher than non-Hispanic whites, according to the institute.

And while the share of births to teenage mothers has dropped over the past two decades for all women, the highest share of births to teenage mothers is among native-born Hispanics.

“There are still a lot of barriers to information and access to contraception that exist,” said Jessica Gonzáles-Rojas, 36, the executive director of the institute…“We still need to do a lot of work.”

RTFA for details and descriptive anecdotes.

Education, understanding, access to contraception and freedom of choice are all opportunities which would be denied by the forces of backwardness – from the Pope to the Republican Party.

Constitutional standards which thrilled immigrants and citizens alike – freedom, opportunity, equal access to a better life – are now progressive concepts needing to be fought for again. As we had to defeat British imperial rule over American colonies, we now confront the same resistance from native reactionaries who would deny freedom, once more.

High-tech handcuffs can shock, inject prisoners as required

Today, handcuffs are just steel restraints. Tomorrow, however, they could be much more. According to U.S. Patent Application 20120298119, Scottsdale Inventions…of Paradise Valley, Arizona has invented a pair of high-tech handcuffs that could deliver electric shocks to prisoners by means of an incorporated Taser-like system hooked to wireless controls and sophisticated sensors.

In some ways, the Scottsdale cuffs are like a combination of invisible fences and training collars used for dogs. Where the canine versions provide a mild joy buzzer of a shock, however, the cuffs could immobilize a prisoner. They’re based on the principle of the Taser, which uses electrodes to administer high-voltage, low amperage shocks to disrupt a person’s voluntary nervous system. In this case, the system is part of a pair of handcuffs, though the company says that it could also be used in an ankle cuff, restraining belt, straitjacket, harness, facial restraint, helmet or neck collar.

The Scottsdale cuffs are more than just a shocking device. They are part of a system for exercising an almost frightening degree of control over single or multiple prisoners. The cuffs could not only shock, but also deliver warnings if the prisoner fails to follow instructions. These warnings might be an audible signal, a vibration, a flashing light or a mild electric shock as a prelude to a more severe jolt if not obeyed.

The cuffs are also programmable. They could be set to respond to radio transmitters so that prisoners must remain in a certain areas, avoid other areas or only move in a prescribed zone. They could also be triggered by RFID tags attached to weapons, vehicles or other items detainees aren’t allowed near…

Aside from their deterrent functions, the Scottsdale cuffs could also keep track of prisoner movements, behavior and number of shocks administered…the cuffs could also release gases, liquids, dyes and even inject the prisoner with sedative drugs.

Just in case you wondered what we can look forward to if the rightwing nutballs of this land get their way and charge our police departments with handling disobedient and independent thinkers. After all, there is nothing a modern-day libertarian of the Paulista ilk enjoys more than taking away someone’s liberty.

All to be thoroughly tested beforehand, of course, on unwilling subjects in destinations outside the United States but well under the control of the military and CIA.