Florida board to fortify schools against shooters, teachers want stricter gun controls
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- New measures announced by school authorities in Broward County, Fla., indicate they don't have much faith that student protest efforts will result in more gun control — or bring an end to classroom shootings
- Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, has finally broken his silence on the data scandal swirling around his company, but it doesn't appear to be helping
- French scientists are sounding the alarm over a "catastrophic" drop in bird populations in rural areas
Planning for the next massacre
Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., begin their spring break tomorrow.
Many will use the time to travel to Washington D.C. for Saturday's March for Our Lives rally near the White House, one of 839 anti-gun violence demonstrations scheduled to take place during a day of action across America and around the world.
But authorities in Broward County have already let the students know that they don't have much faith their efforts will result in more gun control — or bring an end to school shootings.
Yesterday, the local board of education sent home a letter about its plans to "fortify" the campus where 17 people were killed and another 17 wounded in a Feb. 14 massacre.
Classroom doors will be "locked at all times," states the letter.
Armed police already stand by outside the school, which will soon look more like a jail than a place of learning. Permanent metal detectors will soon be installed at the school's new "single point of entry" — a system that will be replicated in all other area schools once fences are built.
The expanded "safety protocols," as the school district calls them, come in the wake of security scares at Stoneman Douglas earlier this week. The younger brother of the confessed shooter was arrested for trespassing on campus, and two other students were found to be carrying knives.
Florida authorities are now using a new law passed after the massacre to prohibit Zachary Cruz — brother of the Parkland killer Nikolas — from possessing or buying guns. He has also been ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation, and a judge set his bail at $500,000 US — far beyond the standard $25 for such misdemeanours.
Although it doesn't appear that the people who work in America's schools believe that such steps will actually protect them, or their students.
A new Gallup survey of teachers, released today, asked educators to name "one thing" that could be done to prevent school shootings. One third of respondents said "stricter gun laws," and a further 22 per cent suggested banning assault weapons, while 19 per cent would like to see better funding for mental health.
Enhanced security measures, like armed guards and bulletproof windows, were mentioned in 15 per cent of answers.
The long-term effects of school shootings are also top of mind today, following a new Washington Post data investigation that determined that 187,000 students from at least 193 primary or secondary schools have first-hand experience with gun violence on campus. A shocking number that "exceeds the population of Eugene, Ore., or Fort Lauderdale, Fla.," the paper noted.
The New York Times, meanwhile, has stitched together a video portrait of the final seven days of the man who killed 58 people in a Las Vegas shooting spree last October, wounding 700 others. The footage, gleaned from security cameras in hotels, restaurants and casinos, presents a terrifyingly banal vision of Stephen Paddock, as the 64-year-old eats alone, gambles all night long, and tips staff for helping him lug his 21-suitcases stuffed with guns and ammunition to his 32nd floor hotel suite.
Mass killings, it appears, are simply business as usual for some in America.
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, has finally broken his silence on the swirling scandal over allegations that another firm — Cambridge Analytica — used the data of 50 million Facebook users to try and sway elections around the world.
And it doesn't appear to be helping.
The 33-year-old was contrite in a sit-down interview with CNN last night, apologizing for a "major breach of trust," and the "biggest mistake" his company has ever made.
This morning, Germany's Justice Minister Katrina Barley called the scandal a "threat to democracy," noting that people were "against their will forced to interact … with hate speech." She is asking for a meeting with Facebook's European management and demanding immediate solutions to the site's data security and privacy problems.
Israel's privacy watchdogannounced today that it is launching an investigation to see if the personal data of citizens was used in a way that violates national law.
And there are signs that Facebook advertisers are becoming nervous about associating their brands with Zuckerberg's suddenly tainted company. Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox web browser, says it is "pressing pause" on its Facebook ads until the platform strengthens its privacy protections.
"We found that its current default settings leave access open to a lot of data," Denelle Dixon, Mozilla's chief business and legal officer, wrote in a blog post, "particularly with respect to settings for third party apps."
"I don't think they're bluffing. They are going to exert real pressure," David Kershaw, the head of M&C Saatchi, one of the world's biggest ad firms, told the BBC. "I think that clients have come to a point, quite rightly, where enough is enough."
Facebook's stock price continues to feel the pressure, falling three per cent in early trading today. Almost $46 billion US has been trimmed off the company's market value since Friday, and Zuckerberg's personal net worth has decreased by more than $5 billion.
Although not everyone is out to get the Facebook chief, or experiencing schadenfreude over the money troubles of the world's fifth-richest man.
Tim Berners-Lee, the Oxford professor who created the World Wide Web, posted a series of sympathetic tweets last night.
I can imagine Mark Zuckerberg is devastated that his creation has been abused and misused. (Some days I have the same feeling <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/justsaying?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#justsaying</a>) 2/9—@timberners_lee
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The alarm over 'Silent Spring'
French scientists are sounding the alarm over a "catastrophic" drop in bird populations in rural areas.
Over the past 15 years, the overall number of birds in France's countryside has fallen by a third, with some species in far steeper decline than others. Partridge populations have decreased by 80 per cent, for example, and meadow pipit counts are down 70 per cent.
The underlying reason, according to two new studies, is the heavy use of agricultural pesticides, including neonicotinoids, which have all but wiped out the insects upon which the birds feed.
And while the European Union has moved to restrict some neonicotinoids — nicotine-based pesticides that have been linked to a sudden decline in honeybees it has yet to enact a full ban, with farmers simply switching to different brands.
Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency has been studying neonicotinoids for almost six years, but is not expected to make a final decision on their use until at least 2019. It would take several more years to enact a phased-in ban.
The question could end up being settled via the courts.
Last month, the Quebec Superior Court ruled that a class-action suit brought by beekeepers against two neonicotinoid makers — Bayer and Syngeta — could proceed to trial.
A Canada-wide suit is expected shortly.
Quote of the moment
"We were really quite horrified, and fascinated."
- Fisheries and Oceans ecologist Jared Towers, explaining the reaction of marine scientists who observed a male killer whale drowning an unrelated calf so he could mate with its mother. Their study on orca infanticide was published in the journal Nature this week.
What The National is reading
- First rebels and families leave defeated Syrian town (BBC)
- Canada's most drought-vulnerable places (CBC)
- Breitbart's readership plunges (Politico)
- Peru's president undone by corruption scandals he promised to end (Washington Post)
- Zambia slaps Canadian mining giant with $8 billion bill (Africanews)
- Threat to U.S. high school traced to Ontario teen (CBC)
- Organizers deny that people will have to pay to see Pope during visit (Irish Times)
- 'The stench of it stays with everybody': Inside the Super Mario Bros movie (Guardian)
Today in history
March 22, 1988: Janet Jones loves Wayne Gretzky
And so does everyone else in Canada. The Great One's fiancée isn't all that eloquent about her affections. "It's amazing … we are so in love. It's very exciting," she says. But Wayne does make a cameo in an acid wash jean jacket.
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