Bison roundup conjures bygone days of US West
By RICK BOWMER
Tuesday, December 25
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Once a year, hundreds of horseback riders gather on an island in Utah’s Great Salt Lake to nudge bison toward holding pens in a roundup of one of America’s largest and oldest public herds.
Bison have occupied Antelope Island, about 25 miles (80 kilometers) northwest of Salt Lake City, for more than 120 years, after a dozen of them were brought there by a homesteader. Today, several hundred bison roam the island, which is now a state park.
The animals are rounded up each fall so they can receive health checkups and vaccinations and be affixed with a small external computer chip that stores health information.
They are then released back on the island or sold at a public auction to keep the herd at a manageable level of about 500. The island has no natural predators to keep the herd from growing, and there’s a limited amount of grass for the bison to eat, park ranger Charity Owens said.
This year, about 700 bison were pushed into corrals during the 32nd year of a roundup that conjures memories of a bygone era of the American West.
Some of the horseback riders wore old Western clothing, and many donned wide-brimmed cowboy hats. Yells of “Yip … h’yah” echoed across the island as the riders worked to keep the bison marching through wild grasses on hilly terrain.
Anybody can volunteer to be ride horseback during the roundup, but officials cap it at 250 per year, normally reaching that limit.
Rider Jess Reid, 69, a real estate broker from Park City, said the excitement of the event keeps him coming back.
“Running your horse full speed with stampeding buffalo,” Reid said. “I just don’t know where else in the world, hardly, you could do that?”
Toys R Us closure hits Toys for Tots hard
By TERRY SPENCER and JOSHUA REPLOGLE
Friday, December 21
HIALEAH, Fla. (AP) — When Toys R Us closed, Toys for Tots felt the loss.
The toy giant’s decision to close its stores this year left some huge holes for the annual charity drive to fill.
Toys R Us shoppers donated more than 250,000 toys last year and the company gave $5 million in corporate contributions — 40 percent of all corporate giving to the Marine Corps community effort.
The company’s 800 stores usually had boxes near the doors where customers could toss a toy on their way out. They also took monetary donations.
From Florida to Spokane, Washington, several Toys for Tots campaigns say the closures hurt. In Orlando, for example, donations were down 25 percent. In Bakersfield, California, the local group reported being 10,000 toys down earlier this month.
Kelly Wilson, the north Atlanta coordinator for Toys For Tots, said her city needed 268,000 more toys earlier this week. She said donations collected at local Toys R Us stores would fill a large tractor-trailer or more each year.
“We are hopeful that all of our contributors just went somewhere else, got a toy from Kroger or Publix … Target or Walmart since Toys R Us is not available,” she said.
Toys for Tots national spokesman Ted Silvester said losing Toys R Us was a “tough pill.” But he said other corporate sponsors such as Hasbro, Disney and Build-A-Bear helped fill the void while Marine units asked the public for more individual donations. In some cities it’s too late to donate toys this year, but monetary donations are accepted to buy last-minute gifts.
Silvester said while it won’t be known until next month whether the Toys R Us closure resulted in an overall drop nationally in presents donated, numerous cities like New York and Detroit required additional toys. So did regions hit by disasters this year, such as Northern California and the Carolinas.
He said the national Toys for Tots Foundation assists any of the 809 local drives that need additional gifts. Toys for Tots distributed 18 million toys to 7 million children across the U.S. last year.
“The loss of Toys R Us hurt but we hope we will be able to meet the needs of all the families this holiday season,” Silvester said. Toys R Us closed in June after filing for bankruptcy last year, unable to compete with online retailers and discount stores like Target and Walmart. More than 30,000 workers lost jobs.
At the Marine Corps warehouse in suburban Miami this week, vans and trucks from community groups, women’s shelters, churches and schools lined up daily to pick up toys for families they assist. Outreach to local givers and a shipment of Hasbro toys from the national foundation filled any hole left by Toys R Us, said Gunnery Sgt. Dennis Polo, who led the local effort.
On one particular morning, several Marines and civilian volunteers loaded boxes as the months-long effort reached its final days. Polo said his 19 years in the Marines helped him meet the challenge by organizing the mission like a battlefield deployment.
The warehouse is orderly, with toys separated by age group and gender. Charities submit orders giving details of their recipients and the Marines prepare customized boxes in advance to await pickup. Chaos is kept to a minimum — but Polo’s weary voice gives away the effort that makes it happen.
“It is very tedious work but very, very needed,” said Polo, whose family immigrated to Miami from Cuba when he was 15 and still lives here. “It is not just collecting toys and giving toys, it is matching the gift to each child.”
Dabf Montesir and Quante Watkins were picking up toys for McDonald’s Playworld, a Miami charity that works with low-income families — boxes of goods filled their van. (The charity is not associated with the fast-food chain.) Montesir said he’s glad Miami’s Toys for Tots overcame the loss of Toys R Us because the presents his group receives help alleviate strain for needy parents who can’t afford gifts for their children.
Keiondra Ross’ three children are receiving gifts through McDonald’s Playworld. The single mother, who works at a Veterans’ Administration hospital cafeteria, said it’s difficult to pay for her family’s needs, so extras like Christmas presents are tough. On this day just before Christmas, the family’s apartment sat dark to cut the electric bill.
“What Toys for Tots provides is hope,” Ross said. “It allows children to feel, to be a child, to be happy, to receive something, to be able to be a kid.”
Toys for Tots: www.toysfortots.org
Sarah Blake Morgan in Atlanta contributed to this story.
Shutdown leaves Rocky Mountain Park roads unplowed or closed
By DAVID ZALUBOWSKI
Saturday, December 22
ESTES PARK, Colo. (AP) — Visitor centers at Rocky Mountain National Park were locked Saturday and roads were closed or unplowed because of the federal government shutdown.
But the U.S. military said the shutdown won’t affect NORAD Tracks Santa, its 63-year-tradition of answering phone calls from children on Christmas Eve asking where Santa Claus is at the moment. The operation is run from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.
Rocky Mountain National Park’s gates were open, but staffing was cut back and roads were not being cleared of new snow.
Roads that were passable at the time of the shutdown would remain open unless conditions worsened, park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson said.
“This is really disappointing,” said Sarah Schlesinger of Boulder, who went to the park with two nieces from Florida who had never seen snow before.
“It’s time for a new administration,” she said.
Her nieces did get to go sledding, though.
Vasilis Vasileiou of Ioannina, Greece, was making his first trip to the U.S. West and was disappointed to find the visitors centers closed. But he said he
has encountered similar situations at home.
“This is not too frustrating for me because where I come from in Greece, we deal with strikes and shutdowns on an everyday basis,” he said. “Nothing significant has happened here, though, because we can still walk around outdoors.”
But he wished the visitor center was open so he and his travel companion could ask about what to see.
Rocky Mountain National Park is the fourth most popular national park in the country, drawing 4.4 million visitors in 2017. It lies 65 miles (105 kilometers) from downtown Denver.
Colorado’s three other national parks — Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes and Black Canyon of the Gunnison — said on their Facebook pages that some areas remained accessible but that could change without notice and no ranger services were available. Dinosaur National Monument in northwestern Colorado had the same message on its Facebook page.
Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site was closed to protect park resources and visitors, said Rick Wallner, the site’s chief of interpretation.
Active shooter drills may reshape how a generation of students views school
March 28, 2018
Author: Devon Magliozzi, Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology, Stanford University
Disclosure statement: Devon Magliozzi does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Recent school shootings and the March for Our Lives rallies held in cities around the world on March 24 have rekindled debates over how to keep students safe.
“The notion of ‘it can’t happen here’ is no longer a notion,” said Sheriff Tim Cameron of St. Mary’s County, Maryland after a student opened fire on March 20 at Great Mills High School, killing one student and injuring another.
Increasingly, schools are turning to active shooter drills and videos to prepare students and staff to face a gunman. As a sociologist who studies the social impacts of security strategies, I am concerned about the unintended ethical and political consequences of these exercises.
All students deserve safe learning environments. Yet training kids to take responsibility for their own survival while treating gun violence as inevitable may make schools – even those that are never the site of a shooting – feel unsafe. Effects like this need to be weighed against the potential benefits of active shooter training to ensure that measures to protect students do not cause unintended harm.
Ethical dilemmas of ‘run, hide, fight’
By 2013, over two-thirds of public schools in the U.S. used lockdown drills to prepare for an active shooter. In these exercises, students huddle in classrooms to practice waiting for help from police and SWAT teams.
Lockdown and “run, hide, fight” active shooter drills are designed to habituate students and staff to an active shooter situation. However, some schools have faced criticism for using overly realistic simulations. For example, when officers armed with rifles burst into a Florida school for an unannounced drill, parents were outraged.
Training materials designed for teachers, like a computer simulation produced by the Department of Homeland Security, may partially shield children from seeing scary scenarios. However, even when schools focus their trainings on teachers, drills remind students of the possibility that they will face a shooter. A video created by the Santa Ana Unified School District tells teachers to develop a “run, hide, fight” plan and urges them, “Communicate these plans to students. Rehearse, practice, and drill each plan on a regular basis.”
By having students practice responding to a pretend emergency, school administrators hope they will respond the same way to a real one. However, training exercises that instill fear may have negative effects on students. Research shows that exposure to neighborhood violence alters kids’ cognitive performance, affecting how quickly and accurately they respond to cues on a computer screen. If simulated or anticipated violence has similar impacts on kids’ cognition, it could impact their classroom performance.
In addition, moral lessons are hidden within the “run, hide, fight” model. Training videos built on this model are full of underlying messages about the right thing to do during a shooting.
Run: “Encourage others to leave with you, but don’t let them slow you down,” says a training video promoted by the Department of Homeland Security for schools and workplaces.
Hide: In a video published by the Oregon Trail School District, a teacher explains, “We’re gonna push some stuff against the door. That’s called a barricade. We’re gonna barricade the door so nobody can get in.”
Fight: A training video produced by Stanford University advises, “Fire extinguishers are great as weapons and as a chemical spray. Coffee cups, laptops, books – anything you can do to increase your odds of survival is a good tactic.”
Students and teachers are led to reimagine their learning environment as they rehearse the “run, hide, fight” strategy. To plan escape routes, they must picture classrooms and hallways as potential crime scenes. To prioritize their own survival, they must close the door to the shooter and the injured, putting to rest moral questions about leaving others to die. They must do away with the ideal that schools are weapon-free zones and spot classroom objects to wield in battle.
Social stakes of shooter drills
Social scientists know that the strategies people use to protect themselves shape their social lives, regardless of whether they work. Carrying a gun for protection, for example, bears on a person’s identity, political views and social ties even if they never use it. Women who take self-defense classes likewise report feeling newly empowered afterwards, even if they have never been threatened.
While the “run, hide, fight” response is modeled on strategies law enforcement teams have used effectively, there is little evidence as to whether or not it will work to minimize harm in school shootings. In the recent Parkland, Florida shooting, it seems the shooter designed his attack with the school’s emergency drills in mind.
Whether or not active shooter training works, however, it is likely to shape the way students and teachers think and act at school and beyond. Schools play a large role in the formation of political views. When kids learn to plan for school shootings the same way they plan for fires, earthquakes and tornadoes – inevitable events beyond their control – how will it affect how they vote, organize or lead in the future?
Will it impact their trust in public schools, police, the government or each other?
Nobody wants to feel powerless in the face of an attacker, and one casualty from a school shooting is too many. Parents, educators and students naturally seek to do everything possible to limit the harm these tragedies cause. Yet, active shooter training strategies have consequences that communities need to consider. Knowledge is power, but maybe books shouldn’t be weapons. I argue that the hidden lessons of active shooter training need to be openly debated before they are unintentionally ingrained in an entire generation of students.
Connected cars accelerate down data-collection highway
By MICHAEL LIEDTKE
AP Technology Writer
Saturday, December 22
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — That holiday trip over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house could turn into nice little gift for automakers as they increasingly collect oodles and oodles of data about the driver.
Automakers are collecting valuable pieces of information thanks to the internet connections, cameras and sensors built into most vehicles in recent years. The online access makes it possible for cars to be unlocked remotely if the keys are lost. It’s how safety features can be upgraded wirelessly and maintenance schedules adjusted based on performance.
But these digital peepholes are also offering a windshield-size view of people’s lives. That’s creating the potential for intrusive marketing pitches and government surveillance.
No serious incidents have occurred in the United States, Europe and Japan, but a red flag has already been raised in China, where automakers have been sharing location details of connected cars with the government.
“We are not that far away from when 100 percent of all new cars will come equipped with data modems,” Navigant Research analyst Sam Abuelsamid predicted. “Having the potential to collect more data about people in their cars means there is going to be potential for abuses, too.”
Here are some key questions about the auto industry’s acceleration down the data-collection highway:
Q: What kind of cars collect data?
A: In 2016, about one in every five cars sold globally could be plugged into the internet, according to BI Intelligence. By 2020, about three out of every four cars sold will be online.
So if you are driving a 2009 Toyota Corolla, you probably only have to worry about the tracking and data collection being done by the smartphone resting on the cup holder. But as those older models go to the scrapyard, it will become difficult to avoid a vehicle set up for gathering data that will be sent to automakers.
Q: Which automakers are leading the way in this trend?
A: General Motors accounted for 46 percent of connected-car shipments last year, according to the market research firm Counterpoint. They’re followed by BMW (20 percent), Audi (14 percent) and Mercedes Benz (13 percent). In addition, Tesla’s Model S sold since 2012 all come with connectivity. The firm said the biggest markets for connected car sales last year were China (32 percent), the United States (13 percent), Germany (11 percent) and the United Kingdom (9 percent).
Q: Do I own data that’s collected?
A: Under U.S. law, it’s unclear.
Drivers own the data stored in the “black boxes” that monitor vehicles in a crash. Police and insurers need a driver’s consent — or a court order — to get that data. But there are no laws addressing data collected by automakers through vehicle internet connections.
So far, few automakers will share their data in the United States without the owners’ consent, Abuelsamid said. Twenty companies — including GM, Toyota, Ford, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz — signed a voluntary agreement in 2014 to get permission before sharing a driver’s location, health or behavior with third parties. The agreement doesn’t require approval from drivers for data to be shared with emergency workers or for internal research.
One of the most notable exceptions is electric car maker Tesla Motors, which has released data publicly to reveal — sometimes within hours of a crash — how fast a driver was traveling and whether the company’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system was engaged after a collision.
Q: In what ways are automakers passing along data when drivers allow it to be shared?
A: They’re giving the data to insurers to determine the premiums that should be charged, if a driver consents. This could be good if data indicates drivers are cautious, adhere to speed limits and seldom log lots of miles. But insurance premiums could jump for drivers who are prone to speeding or frequent hard braking — all of which could be interpreted as raising the risks for accidents. Insurers would also know whether your seat belt is fastened.
Q: Can I stop an automaker from collecting my data?
A: Most automakers let owners decline, or opt out of, data collection, but that’s usually buried in the fine print. Otherwise, permission is assumed. Also, unlike smartphones, some data collection may be required to ensure that cars operate safely and can receive essential software updates. That’s especially true as more vehicles come with features such as semi-autonomous driving. And it could be necessary in order to have self-driving vehicles.
Q: Should I be worried about automakers using my data in ways that are annoying or compromise my privacy?
A: Probably, if what has happened with smartphones is a reliable gauge.
As automakers collect more data about drivers, they’re more likely to look for ways to profit. The built-in display screens and mapping software would seem to be ideal spots for posting advertisements, similar to what Google, Facebook, Amazon and many other internet companies already do.
The business consultancy McKinsey has estimated automotive data could be worth $450 billion to $750 billion worldwide by 2030. Ford Motor CEO Jim Hackett may have foreshadowed what’s coming as he boasted in a recent interview about how much the automaker already knows about its customers who get their loans through its financial services division. All the lending information has allowed Ford to learn how much money people, where they live, where they live and whether they are married.
“We’ve never ever been challenged on how we use that,” Hackett told a Freakonomics podcast last month.
AP Auto Writer Tom Krisher in Detroit contributed to this story.