Faculty could be allowed to carry guns on campuses in Tennessee

by Lauren Carter


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/The Loop) – Students may soon enter college classrooms where their professor has a handgun on the desk during lecture, an idea that was once thought impossible but is now closer to reality than ever.

HB 2016, a bill sponsored by Tennessee Republican Rep. Andy Holt of Dresden, would allow faculty and staff with handgun carry permits to bring their guns to campus. The current law prohibits anyone other than law enforcement to bring weapons to campus.

Students walk to class on 'Cardiac Hill' on UTC's campus. Faculty and staff with handgun permits may soon be allowed to carry guns on campus. Photo by Lauren Carter

In a release from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the administration stated their opposition of “a bill that would allow more people to carry guns on campus, contributing to unsafe conditions for students, faculty, staff, and visitors.”

“We consider our responsibility to provide a safe campus environment among our top priorities,” said UTC Chancellor Roger Brown. “Campus law enforcement and law enforcement leaders from across Tennessee have said more guns on campus would not make campuses safer,” Brown said.

The statement from UTC administrators said that higher education leaders have joined police forces statewide, as well as the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police in opposition to this proposal.

The law enforcement group said in a letter to the General Assembly, that allowing guns on campus could create difficult scenarios for police who wouldn’t be able to determine the motives of armed people on campus.

The group also said handgun carry permit holders don’t have the training needed to handle guns in stressful and dangerous situations.

“From a law enforcement perspective, having more people with guns on campus increases the risk for a situation to occur and decreases safety.” UTC Police Chief Robert Ratchford said in the administrator’s statement. “Police officers are trained to handle situations. To have others get involved in a situation only complicates matters and raises the risk of injury,” Ratchford said.

Faculty and student government organizations at UTC have also opposed the bill.

Dr. Victoria Steinberg, Professor of French and President of the UTC Faculty Senate, said in the administrator’s statement, “As a faculty member at UTC, I can assure you that I feel quite safe with the current level of security and protection afforded by our campus police in coordination with city police, and therefore do not feel that arming students or faculty would do anything except complicate security.”

Students travel outside UTC's Lupton Library in between class. Faculty and staff may soon be able to carry handguns on campus if HB2016 is passed. Photo by Lauren Carter

UTC is not the only campus in the University of Tennessee system that is opposing the bill.

In a previous statement, University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro said, “The University of Tennessee has repeatedly stated its opposition to allowing anyone other than law enforcement officers to carry guns while on campus.”

DiPietro said that the safety of all students, faculty and staff is a responsibility that is taken seriously. Campuses work with law enforcement to take measures to create the safest environments possible, however campuses will not become safer with more gun carriers, DiPietro said.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey are also working together against the bill.

Haslam told The Associated Press in a recent statement that he wants to leave it up to administrators at each school to decide whether to allow guns to be carried by anyone other than law enforcement.

Ramsey told The Associated Press that the only major gun bill he wants to focus on is one that would ban businesses from prohibiting their employees from storing guns in cars parked on company lots.

“I want to concentrate on what I think is meaningful and what will help Second Amendment, gun carry permit holders the most,” Ramsey said. “And I do think that guns on campus is a sideline that we don’t need to be getting to right now.”

The number of Tennessee handgun carry permit holders in January was nearly 308,000, a 40 percent increase since January 2009.

Members of the organization ‘Concealed Campus’ lobby for the right to carry guns on campus and their views of their 2nd Amendment rights.



Motorcycle deaths decline as rider numbers increase

by Lauren Carter


WASHINGTON (AP) — Motorcycle deaths dropped 2 percent in the first nine months of last year, but the report by state transportation officials may signal just a blip, not a lasting improvement in safety.

There were 80 fewer motorcycle deaths from January through September of 2010 than in the same time frame the previous year, said the report, scheduled for release Tuesday by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Image: Getty

But fatalities had started to climb back up during the last three of those nine months. And that has safety advocates worried.

“The drop is all in the front half of the year,” said report author Jim Hedlund, a safety consultant. “It looks very much as if we’ve hit bottom and may be starting back up again.”

Fatalities were down 25 percent during the first three months of last year, and still down 1 percent in next three months after that. Then they went up 3 percent in the third quarter of the year, the report said.

Annual motorcycle fatalities have more than doubled since the late 1990s, peaking in 2008 at 5,312 deaths. But they plunged 16 percent in 2009 as the economy tanked. What caused the drop is a matter of debate.

Jonathan Adkins, a spokesman for the safety group that issued the report, said recreational motorcycle riding appears to have declined while the recession was at its worst, and that may explain why the number of deaths went down.

(Video from THINK! on motorcycle safety)

Now that the economy is showing signs of recovery, Adkins said he’s concerned a rebound in recreational riding will lead to more deaths.

But Jeff Hennie, vice president of the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, disagrees. He said the economy — especially the recent rise in gas prices — appears to have increased, not decreased, motorcycle use.

“If I have a choice between driving a pickup or my motorcycle, I’m taking the motorcycle that gets 50 mph,” Hennie said. “It’s not sport, it’s transportation.”

A related data trend is also worrisome. The number of motorcyclists wearing federally-approved, impact-absorbing helmets dropped 13 percent in the first nine months of 2010. At the same time, motorcyclists wearing so called “novelty” helmets — which are lightweight and offer little protection — rose 9 percent.

A helmet that meets federal standards reduces the wearer’s chances of being killed in an accident by about 40 percent, Hedlund said. The only reason for wearing a novelty helmet is to avoid getting ticketed for not wearing a helmet, he added.

Twenty states require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets, but only 13 states specify that the helmets must meet federal standards, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The board has urged states to require all riders to wear helmets that meet federal standards.

Lobbying by motorcyclist groups has led some states to repeal mandatory helmet laws.

Meanwhile, BMW Motorrad USA said it will offer anti-lock brakes as standard equipment on all its 2012 model year motorcycles, the first manufacturer to take that step. Improper braking has been identified as a factor in many motorcycle crashes. BMW said its sales account for less than 3 percent of the U.S. market.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press

Seriously stressful sales-tax

by Lauren Carter


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/The Loop) – Tensions are running high as the expiration date of the 45-year-old sales tax agreement between Hamilton county and the cities of Hamilton county draws near.

In the Chattanooga City Council meeting on April 5, Councilwoman Deborah Scott addressed concerns that had been voiced about the sales tax agreement.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger speaks to the Regional Health Council on April 4 about possible plans to cut the Health Department's budget if a sales tax agreement with the city of Chattanooga expires. Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Scott said in the meeting that, there really is no equality in a document which puts financial burdens on only some cities but not all cities and on some Hamilton County residents and not all Hamilton County residents.

Talks and resolutions are in the process of being discussed, as the May 23 expiration date looms closer. If the current agreement is allowed to expire, the county could lose up to $10 million annually.

The city of Chattanooga has refused to renew the 45-year-old agreement, and Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger has stated that many agencies could face extreme budget cuts with the ending of the current sale-tax agreement.

Coppinger stated before the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Health Council on April 4, that he hopes a new city-county sale-tax agreement will allow the money shared by the city and county to fund certain agencies.

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield wrote in a letter dated April 8, to Mayor Coppinger that he does not see the newly drafted agreement as a resolution.

Littlefield stated in the letter that, “When the city and county splits the cost of anything, city taxpayers are called upon to pay twice: once as a city taxpayer and again as a county taxpayer…. Regardless, the natural net effect is that approximately 80% of the cost is raised by the sweat of Chattanooga taxpayers.”

Littlefield continues that, “An analysis of the source of ‘county property tax dollars,’ based on Chattanooga’s part of Hamilton County’s assessed property tax, reveals that about 58 cents of every tax dollar you receive comes from a Chattanooga taxpayer.”

Councilwoman Scott reiterated these statements in the April 5 city council meeting.  Some agencies were supported by both Hamilton County tax dollars and city of Chattanooga tax dollars, and Chattanooga residents pay 58% of Hamilton County taxes, Scott said.

Current Chattanooga City Council Members

The city of Chattanooga has not threatened to be the demise of any agency, Scott stated, but these agencies feel threatened because they have been receiving similar messages about the loss of funding.  However, these messages have not been coming from the city of Chattanooga, Scott said.

Scott advised that the city of Chattanooga has tried to calmly explain the truth and apparently the truth is still not being widely distributed.

Click to listen to Councilwoman Deborah Scott’s thoughts on the false information being sread about the sales-tax agreement

Councilman Jack Benson agreed that there is a real problem out there and the citizens of Chattanooga do not understand fully the unfairness of this situation.

People do not understand that city residents pay county taxes, Benson said, that he pays more county taxes than city taxes as county taxes are higher than in the city and people do not understand the inequities.

Scott defended the city of Chattanooga tax payers as very wonderful, giving people and they do not mind paying their fair share.  However, she has not met many Chattanoogans that want to pay more than their fair share or even someone else’s fair share, Scott said.



Bomb-making materials found in Nigeria

by Lauren Carter


LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — A large amount of bomb-making equipment has been found in a restive city in central Nigeria, raising concerns of election-related violence just weeks ahead of national polls, authorities said Wednesday.

Brig. Gen. Hassan Umaru said the materials were found Tuesday in a house in a residential neighborhood in the city of Jos.

Materials included lab equipment, a timer, an instructional manual on bomb-making, and dozens of detonators. Security experts say that only one detonator is required to make a bomb in most cases and their number suggests that the suspects intended to build multiple devices.

Plateau state police spokesman Abdurrahman Akano declined to comment on the material, pending a report from the police’s anti-bomb squad.

Police arrested three suspects in connection with the discovery, which comes two weeks after soldiers stopped trucks loaded with weapons and explosives heading for Jos. Authorities said they carried more than 33,000 pounds (15,000 kilograms) of ammunition along with explosive material, detonators and other equipment used to make bombs.

“We can’t leave any room for these items to be used or there will be serious chaos,” Umaru said, adding that the ammunition was being brought into the city by people “who want to cause confusion” ahead of April polls. Nigerians will vote for a new president on April 9 and new governors on April 16.

Election violence has already started in the deeply divided city of Jos. An Associated Press reporter counted four dead bodies and four wounded people at a mosque after violence broke out Monday at an opposition party rally in Jos. The bodies were taken to the Jos Central Mosque for burial according to Islamic rites.

The Congress for Progressive Change accused police of causing the deaths by firing on attendees. Police denied that charge and said party supporters came armed with machetes and homemade petro-bombs.

Jos is the epicenter of religious violence in Nigeria’s “middle belt” where the country’s predominantly Muslim north meets a mostly Christian south. Attackers in the region, however, had not been known to use industrial bombs until a few months ago.

“The use of explosive devices is relatively new in the (state) but the December bombings brought in a new dimension in this regard,” Umaru said after multiple Christmas Eve bombings in Jos left at least 32 dead last year.

Two bombs went off near a large market where people were doing last-minute Christmas shopping. A third hit a mainly Christian area of Jos, while the fourth was near a road that leads to the city’s main mosque.

Violence in Jos, though fractured across religious lines, often has more to do with local politics, economics and rights to grazing lands. The government of Plateau state, where Jos is the capital, is controlled by Christian politicians who have blocked Muslims from being legally recognized as citizens. That has locked many out of prized government jobs in a region where the tourism industry and tin mining have collapsed in the last decades.


Associated Press writer Ahmed Saka contributed to this report from Jos, Nigeria.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press

Queen Catherine or Queen Kate: What will the future Mrs. Prince WIlliam be called?

by Lauren Carter


BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) (UTC/TheLoop) — Call her Kate, at least for now.

It may be years before Kate Middleton becomes queen, but questions are already being raised about the princess-to-be’s preferred moniker: Queen Kate or Queen Catherine?

Ever since her engagement became official in November, palace officials — and her fiance, Prince William — have taken to calling her Catherine, the name used on the official, gold-embossed invitations to their nuptials at Westminster Abbey on April 29.

“Catherine” sounds more formal, regal and fitting for a future queen, experts say.

But Middleton herself may not embrace the change just yet. During a joint visit Tuesday with Prince William to Northern Ireland, Middleton mentioned casually that she thinks of herself primarily as Kate.

“I’m still very much Kate,” said Middleton, when a woman outside Belfast City Hall asked what name she preferred.

The “Kate” versus “Catherine” debate has emerged in recent weeks because of William’s switch in using it and because “Catherine” or the initial “C” is being imprinted on official wedding memorabilia and commemorative china.

“I think that Catherine does have a more historic feel to it; there have been several queen consorts called Catherine in British history,” said Charles Kidd, editor of the blue-blood bible Debrett’s Peerage. “So Queen Catherine does sound quite familiar. It has a historic ring to it.”

He said Kate also sounds pleasant but reminds him of the feisty character in “Kiss Me Kate,” a Cole Porter musical that features William Shakespeare’s play “The Taming of the Shrew.”

“I imagine she’ll be known as Catherine but the tabloids and majority of the press will continue to call her Kate, so in the general sense she’ll be known as Kate,” he said.

According to the official royal wedding website, which has already received more than 2 million visits since it started up last week, Middleton does not prefer one name over the other. It says Middleton used the name “Catherine” when she was growing up with her family but tends to use the more casual “Kate” in her professional life.

“Miss Middleton uses both names equally, and she has never expressed a preference for either Catherine or Kate since her engagement,” the website states.

Most of the British media still calls her “Kate,” and headline writers are not expected to change.

A spokeswoman for Prince Charles, who declined to be named according to palace protocol, would not comment Tuesday on Middleton’s statement in Belfast. But she noted that Middleton’s family and friends call her “Catherine” and that is her real name.

The late Princess Diana, William’s mother, also had an informal nickname — “Lady Di” — that was too casual for formal court affairs, where she was called Her Royal Highness, The Princess of Wales. After her death, she became known as “The People’s Princess,” a phrase coined by then-Prime Minister Tony Blair.

No matter what she is called, Middleton and her beau showed true star power in Belfast, delighting an enthusiastic crowd on their first official visit to Northern Ireland. Police kept watch from the rooftops as the center of Belfast was brought to a standstill.

“My little heart is beating 90 to the dozen after meeting Kate,” said Gloria Lowry, from Carrickfergus. “She is absolutely beautiful and William so handsome. They make a perfect couple.”

Middleton wore a double-breasted cream-colored belted coat with a ruffle hem, black tights and black high-heeled shoes. The prince wore a navy suit.

It was their third public outing in recent weeks, completing a circuit that has taken them to all parts of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Last month, the couple traveled to Wales and to Scotland.

Outside city hall, William and Middleton were cheered as they took turns flipping a pancake, the traditional treat eaten on Shrove Tuesday, the day before the Catholic season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.

Rebecca Fletcher, 11, who took the day off school, called “Katie!” and offered a bouquet of daffodils.

“You’re a very lucky lady. I’m so jealous,” the girl said.

“I am lucky,” Middleton said. “He’s a very nice man and I’m looking forward to spending the rest of my life with him.”

Heather Lindsay, whose daughter Laura Ann is also getting married this year, brought “bride” and “groom” caps in the hope of getting William to wear one.

“He politely declined. He said his mother would not appreciate him wearing the hat,” said Lindsay, from Killyleagh.

“I told Kate I am also planning for a big wedding as well. I told her not to lose any more weight. She laughed and said it was all part of the wedding planning,” Lindsay added.

William and Middleton also toured Greenmount Agricultural College in Antrim outside of Belfast, where they were shown a herd of 30 prize Holstein dairy cows and taught how to rate cows.

William drew laughs by comparing the qualities judges look for in cows to a dating website then refereed a tug of war between agricultural students.


Copyright 2011 The Associated Press


It can happen to you: How much do you really know about HIV?

by Lauren Carter


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/The Loop) – More that 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV today, according to studies done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Every 9 ½ minutes, someone in the United States is diagnosed with HIV, however 21 percent of those infected are unaware of their status.

HIV and AIDS are not the same thing.  HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus, which can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS.  Getting tested for HIV is essential to HIV prevention, treatment, and care, as said by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).

Photo from "Spread the Truth, Not The Disease" HIV awareness poster campaign 2009

Studies done by the CDC have shown that those who learn they are HIV positive will modify behavior to reduce the risk of HIV transmission, and early knowledge of HIV status can reduce morbidity and improve one’s quality of life.

In 2009, 30 percent of young adults, ages 19 to 29, reported that they had been tested for HIV in the past 12 months, according to surveys done by the KFF.  Many people are diagnosed with HIV late in their illness, sometimes as little as one year before receiving an AIDS diagnosis.

Young adults and teens, between the ages of 13 and 29, accounted for 34 percent of new HIV infections in 2006, according to the KFF. Most young people in this age range are infected sexually.  In 2007, over 61,000 young people were estimated to be living with HIV in the United States, as found by the CDC.

It is recommended by the CDC that routine HIV screenings are done by all adults aged 13 to 64.  Most HIV infection tests detect the presence of antibodies produced by the body to fight HIV, according to the KFF.  Screening tests include conventional blood tests, conventional oral fluid tests, rapid tests, home tests, and urine tests.

Geographically, the South has the highest percentage of persons infected with HIV, new AIDS diagnoses, and persons living with AIDS, as found by the CDC.  About 100 people test positive for HIV in Southeast Tennessee each year, according to information from the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department.  More than 1,400 people living with the HIV/AIDS virus in Hamilton County, as found by Chattanooga CARES, a non-profit resource for education, prevention, and support for all people affected by HIV.

Students at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga have varying opinions on HIV and AIDS awareness on campus.  When asked what causes a lack of awareness on campus, some students say it’s the mindset of the college aged population.

Photo from "Spread the Truth, Not The Disease" HIV awareness poster campaign 2009

“I don’t think that people think about [HIV] unless someone they’re close to is affected by it or they themselves is infected by it,” Becky Pike, a junior at UTC, said.  “I don’t think about it at all.  I mean when I see a poster, I feel like I just kind of walk past it, because we don’t know that there are that many people infected.”

Lee Reece, a junior at UTC, said, “We’re so self-involved with other things, and I think we’re kind of a happy-go-luck group and prefer to ignore the negative things [in life].”

Students believe that awareness should be increased on campus with help from existing student organizations, as well as awareness health classes.

“I think health classes could help [improve awareness], but they’re not required for everybody to take,” Reece said.   “Maybe more group sponsorship of stuff on campus.  There are people out there supporting it, but on campus they might need to have some groups that are more active in creating awareness.”

Ali McKenzie, a senior at UTC, said, “The only thing I’ve ever seen [about the disease] was on the back of bathroom doors.”

Chattanooga CARES offers opportunities for HIV educational programs and workshops for 23 counties in Tennessee.  Free and confidential rapid HIV testing is also offered by the organization, with a primary cares clinic available for those already infected with HIV or AIDS.  Chattanooga CARES also creates volunteer opportunities for those wanting to get involved in the area’s HIV and AIDS community, including the annual Strides of March benefit.

A cure has still not been found for HIV and AIDS.  HIV testing and awareness education are the best prevention tools that are readily available until a cure is found.

Man arrested in Bellagio Casino robbery heist

by Lauren Carter


LAS VEGAS (AP) — Police have arrested a 29-year-old Las Vegas man in the brazen armed robbery of $1.5 million in casino chips from the posh Bellagio resort on the Las Vegas Strip.

Las Vegas police said Anthony M. Carleo was the motorcycle-helmeted bandit who waved a gun, grabbed high-value casino chips and made off on a motorcycle before dawn Dec. 14. No shots were fired and no one was hurt. Police said then that they thought the same man robbed the Suncoast casino in northwest Las Vegas early Dec. 8.

Bail was set at $15,000 pending a Friday court appearance on felony armed robbery and burglary charges, according to Clark County jail records. Jail records showed Carleo in custody under another name — Anthony M. Assad. It was not immediately clear whether he had a lawyer.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that Carleo is the son of Las Vegas Municipal Court Judge George Assad.

Police said Carleo was also suspected of trafficking a controlled substance, but booking records did not reflect that charge. Police spokesman Bill Cassell refused to give further details on the arrest besides saying it happened in Las Vegas.

Stealing $1.5 million in chips isn’t like stealing $1.5 million, experts and police pointed out at the time of the robbery. Chips are unique to casino properties and are generally not interchangeable, although state regulations let casino companies redeem sister properties’ chips with some restrictions.

After the heist, Bellagio announced plans to discontinue the casino’s $25,000 chips in April, setting a deadline for the thief to try to use them. Police weren’t saying Thursday whether the suspect tried to redeem the chips — which ranged from $100 to $25,000 — before he was arrested.

Bellagio officials wouldn’t say whether MGM Resorts International properties are among Las Vegas casinos that embed radio frequency devices inside the tokens.

It took less than three minutes for the robber to pull off the heist, police say.

He entered a casino entrance from Flamingo Road, strode fewer than 500 feet to a craps table, brandished the handgun at the 10 to 12 patrons and three or four dealers with chips piled on the green felt, scooped up the loot and ran.

Casino security officers didn’t confront the robber, but a ceiling security video camera followed his path out the door. Morgan said a 911 call was placed to police while the man was still in the casino. He was gone by the time police arrived.


Associated Press writer Ken Ritter contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press

Keith Urban is Super Bowl Pre-Game Show Performer

By Lauren Carter


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Country music star Keith Urban is set to perform live from Cowboys Stadium as part of the Super Bowl pre-game festivities next month.

The Fox Super Bowl Sunday pre-game show begins at 2 p.m. EST and will be broadcast worldwide.

The three-time Grammy winner plans to include songs from his newly released album, “Get Closer.”

Urban has sold nearly 20 million CDs and earned numerous awards. He has charted 11 No. 1 hits, including “Only You Can Love Me This Way,” ”Sweet Thing,” ”Better Life” and “Days Go By.”

The Super Bowl will be held on Sunday of Feb. 6 and will air on Fox. More than 153 million viewers in the United States viewed last year’s Super Bowl, the most-watched television program in history.


Online: http://www.keithurban.net

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.