- Associated Press - Monday, December 8, 2014

The Alpena News. Dec. 1.

Make sure toy guns are seen as toy guns

Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice of Cleveland probably would be alive today had he not brandished a realistic-looking gun when challenged by a police officer.

Rice’s death is the most recent in a string of senseless deaths of children killed because law enforcement officers thought the “toys” they had were real, deadly firearms.

An investigation into Rice’s death has been launched. It may reveal the two police officers involved could have dealt with the boy without shooting him. Again, however, there is no doubt no shots would have been fired had Rice not been at a playground with a realistic-looking pistol.

It turns out the boy was carrying a replica pistol meant to fire soft pellets. Someone had removed an orange band around the barrel, meant to distinguish the gun from a real firearm.

Police say that when they told Rice to raise his hands, he instead grabbed the pistol. At that point he was shot.

How many more children have to die in similar situations before parents stop allowing their children to take real-looking “toy” guns out in public?

If you are buying Christmas gifts for a youngster this year, steer away from such “toys.” At the very least, don’t let a child take one out in public. There is no reason - none at all - to expose a youngster to that danger.

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Grand Haven Tribune. Nov. 28.

Kudos to USDA for honey bee protection

Bees across the Midwest are getting a big-time boost from the USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Programs.

The Conservation Reserve Program incentive is giving $8 million in federal aid to help producers in five states, including Michigan.

On the surface, that seems like a lot of dough for bees. But the fact is, bees are vital to our country’s food supply, and $8 million is a drop in the bucket compared to the potential benefits of this plan.

“The future of America’s food supply depends on honeybees, and this effort is one way the USDA is helping improve the health of honey bee populations,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

In recent years, factors such as diseases, parasites, pesticides and habitat loss have contributed to a significant decline in the honey bee population.

The honey bee population has been in decline for decades, dropping from 6 million in 1947 to just 2.5 million today.

This is an alarming statistic, given Vilsack’s comments. Honey bees are essential to pollinating our crops.

In a state like Michigan, a huge portion of our economy relies on agriculture, especially from fruit such as blueberries, apples and cherries.

Kudos to the USDA for recognizing the need for this funding. Hopefully, this money can help protect and restore domestic populations of honey bees and other pollinators.

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Lansing State Journal. Nov. 27.

Body cameras for officers worth expense

Dash cameras have become a routine tool in policing in many communities, often funded with U.S. Department of Justice grants.

In the wake of the Michael Brown case in Missouri, it’s time to increase use of body cameras for officers nationwide. Rather than spending federal money to provide police with surplus military equipment such as armored vehicles, which are seldom needed and which can be seen as escalating conflict when they are used, spending to support more widespread use of body cameras by officers cold actually make a daily difference for their safety and that of the public.

Case in point: the Rialto, Calif. police used body cameras as part of a study done by their chief from February 2012 to February 2013, according to CNN.com. Chief William A. Farrar partnered with a researcher from the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology for the study after studying at the English university himself in 2011.

The net result of their research: Use of force by Rialto’s department, which polices a 100,000-resident city, dropped 60 percent during the experiment year.

Experts suggest citizens and officers behave better when they know they are being filmed.

There are limitations to body cameras, just as there are with dash cams. They can’t get a 360-degree view. When they are turned on or off can alter the perception of the event. Technical difficulties could impact the quality of recording.

Yet overall, as with dashboard cameras, body cameras can provide additional information about how events really unfolded. That can only be useful.

East Lansing officials have said they would like body cameras, but are looking for funding to support them.

This is an area where the federal government can provide useful support. It should do so.

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The Detroit News. Nov. 28.

Warren mayor a sore loser

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts has filed suit to halt the voter-approved elimination of the state’s personal property tax. The tax, which applies to physical properties owned by businesses, constitutes an important chunk of Warren’s budget, Fouts says, and the mayor has little faith that the funds supplied by a state use tax will measure up. Manufacturing businesses, which Warren plays host to, pay the bulk of the tax.

Fouts claims that the suit won’t cost the city and money, and that city attorney David Griem would work the case pro bono, but every case in the legal system costs taxpayers money. And on this matter, taxpayers and voters have spoken, choosing to eliminate the tax during the Aug. 5 election by more than a 2-1 margin.

Even Warren voters, the people Fouts was elected to represent, approved the tax’s repeal. There was not a county in Michigan that failed to support the measure. Drop the lawsuit, Mayor Fouts.

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