Sunday, January 16, 2011

Why not everywhere I'm in public? I'm tried of watching people kill themselves and murder me!

Towson University douses smoking on campus

Towson University first pushed its smokers out of campus buildings and into the great outdoors. Then, 30 feet away from buildings. Finally, last semester, it was off campus altogether.

Between classes, smokers rush to the state- or county-owned roads edging the Baltimore County campus. Not stepping off school property before lighting up can mean a $75 fine.

"On campus, it's a breath of fresh air - finally," said Steven Crudele, a former member of the student government who was part of the campus smoke-free task force. "When you are walking in and out of buildings, you don't have to walk through a cloud of smoke."

Towson is one of the first universities in the region to implement a strict, campuswide smoking ban. Similar initiatives are slowly picking up popularity at colleges across the country. Many university hospitals have such policies in place, as do several Maryland community colleges.

Such bans quickly clear the air at college campuses, allowing nonsmokers to study and learn, indoors and out, without the distraction or danger of secondhand smoke. The bans also try to speak directly to smokers, carrying the message that inhaling toxins is not healthy for anyone. That message is reinforced every time a smoker heads for the campus boundary.

Several colleges in the region have debated how best to balance the rights of smokers and nonsmokers in outdoor spaces, especially near residence halls or building entrances.

Often, this results in complex policies. American University doesn't allow smokers near residence hall entrances. The University of Maryland at College Park makes smokers stand at least 15 feet away from building entrances, windows and air ducts. The University of Virginia and Virginia Tech set the gap at 25 feet.

Towson President Robert L. Caret decided several years ago that he wanted to make the entire campus smoke-free, and he created a task force in 2007 to implement the idea. It hasn't been easy.

Towson is the second-largest public university in Maryland. It was founded as a teachers college, and it continues to produce more teachers than any other school in the state. Towson has almost 22,000 students and more than 2,000 faculty and staff members. About 4,500 students live in campus residence halls; the rest commute. Although more than 67 percent of the student population is white, Towson is one of the few universities nationwide that doesn't have a gap between its graduation rates for white and underrepresented minority students.

Last week, Caret announced that he is leaving Towson to become president of the University of Massachusetts System, where he will oversee five campuses and more than 65,000 students.

The task force debated designating a few spots on campus for smokers but decided to make it a campuswide ban.

"Either you are smoke-free or you are not," said Jerry Dieringer, task force co-chairman and the university's assistant vice president for student affairs.

Towson previously had a rule that smokers couldn't stand within 30 feet of a building, but the rule was difficult to enforce, and clouds of smoke hovered over many parts of the 328-acre campus north of Baltimore. A popular smoking hangout was "the Beach," a grassy quad where students like to lay out and study.

"Rain or shine, students would be outside smoking," said Crudele, 20, a junior who is majoring in history and secondary education. "Rain, especially, was bad because they would stand really close to the building."

Starting in fall 2008, the task force began to educate the campus about the impending ban by hosting forums to answer questions, promoting cessation programs at the health center and counting down the months, using the image of disappearing cigarettes.

Concerns arose: Did this violate the rights of smokers? Could a public university really do this? Was the university putting smokers in danger by pushing them off campus?

"There should be some safe zones other than public streets," said Alex Dolan, 20, a junior music education major. "A lot of my friends are cigarette smokers . . . they feel confined when they are on campus."

The aim of the ban was not to force people to stop smoking, Dieringer said. Instead, officials wanted to make the air healthier for nonsmokers and reduce cigarette litter. Towson's ban went into effect Aug. 1, and for the first month, smokers were given warnings if they were caught. People on campus were asked to hand out information cards and file a report if they found someone smoking (school officials said not to call police).

After the second month, the university began to issue citations. So far, officials have handed out about 100 fines, Dieringer said. Officials decided to match the fine for campus parking tickets - $75. The money the college collects will be used to offset the cost of the program and new no-smoking signs.

Campus visitors, including construction workers, are expected to abide by the ban, although the university does not fine them.

The jaunts off campus are nearly always annoying to smokers, but they reach another level of frustration when it's raining or freezing cold outside.

"I don't know anyone who's happy about it," said Matthew Ferguson, 22, a senior English major. "I have friends who try to run off campus in between class. It puts more stress on them while they're trying to relieve some stress."

Shooting rampage victim arrested

Shooting rampage victim arrested at ABC-TV town hall meeting

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Two things are clear from Saturday's ABC News town hall meeting in Tucson. One: Tucsonans are eager to move forward and recover from last week's horrible shooting rampage. And two: that process is going to be slow and painful. That latter point was driven home by the arrest of a shooting victim, who threatened a speaker during the taping of the program.

ABC News Anchor Christiane Amanpour hosted the remarkable gathering of victims, heroes, witnesses and first responders. It was the first time most of them had been together since Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a Safeway parking lot, killing 6, and wounding or injuring 14 others -- a rampage that happened one week earlier almost to the hour.

On the platform with Amanpour were Col. Bill Badger, who helped tackle gunman Jared Lee Loughner; Daniel Hernandez, who ran to help wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords while most people were ducking for cover, Patricia Maisch, who grabbed a magazine away from Loughner; Bill Hileman, whose wife, Susan, is still recovering from gunshot wounds.

On the front row was Kenneth Dorushka, who was shot shielding his wife from Loughner's gunfire; and J. Eric Fuller, who was shot in the knee.

Most of the event was devoted to a recounting of what had happened that terrible morning. Amanpour gently led the witnesses and survivors through the events, getting them to tell what they saw and experienced, and to talk about how they are coping.

Probably the most emotional moment came when Bill Hileman talked about his wife Susan's dual struggle: physical and emotional. The youngest victim who died in the shooting, 9 year old Christina Taylor Green, was there because she wanted to meet Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. A neighbor took her to the "Congress On Your Corner" event. Susan Hileman was that neighbor. Bill Hileman said that his wife now struggles with the fact that she took a neighbor's child to the event, but was not able to bring her home again.

The theme of the event was "An American Conversation Continued" -- the idea being to continue the conversation that a madman's brutal rampage had interrupted. So it was inevitable that the conversation would eventually turn to politics. It did, toward the end, with Amanpour leading a discussion on a very touchy but obvious topic: gun control.

That's where the atmosphere turned tense. When Tucson Tea Party founder Trent Humphries rose to suggest that any conversation about gun control should be put off until after the funerals for all the victims, witnesses say Fuller became agitated. Two told KGUN9 News that finally, Fuller took a picture of Humphries, and said, "You're dead."

When State Rep. Terri Proud (R-Tucson) rose to explain and clarify current and proposed gun legislation in the state, several people groaned or booed her. One of those booing, according to several witnesses, was Fuller. Witnesses sitting near Fuller told KGUN9 News that Fuller was making them feel very uncomfortable.

The event wrapped up a short time later. Deputies then escorted Fuller from the room. As he was being led off, Fuller shouted loudly to the room at large. Several witnesses said that what they thought they heard him shout was, "You're all whores!"

Fuller, age 63, is a political operative who specializes in gathering petitions for ballot initiatives. Before the program began, he passed out business cards to people sitting around him that read:
"Expediting Initiatives since 2006
"J. Eric Fuller
"Political Circulator."

A Pima County Sheriff's spokesman told KGUN9 News that the department has charged Fuller with one count of threats and intimidation, and said they plan to charge him with at least one count of disorderly conduct. Humphries told KGUN9 News that he does plan to press those charges.

The irony could not be more pointed, or painful. One of the issues discussed in the town hall meeting was the question of why no police or mental health professionals had ever intervened with Jared Lee Loughner, despite his increasingly bizarre behavior that had included disruptive outbursts.

Afterwards, several participants told KGUN9 News that they hoped the outburst would not overshadow what they saw as the true message of the meeting: that Tucson is filled with good and decent people, and the community will get through this.

Among the dignitaries and community leaders present: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who is a close personal friend of Giffords and who also sat on the platform with Amanpour; Tucson mayor Bob Walkup; Tucson Congressman Raúl Grijalva; former Tucson Congressman Jim Kolbe; and Father Richard Troutman of St. Odilia's Catholic Church, where the town hall took place.

Also on the platform: Pima County Sheriff's Bureau Chief Richard Kastigar, who gave an update on the investigation.

ABC did not allow KGUN9 to place a news photographer inside the meeting room during the program. However, ABC will broadcast the town hall meeting, entitled "After the Tragedy: An American Conversation Continued," Sunday. The network has given KGUN9-TV permission to air the broadcast twice. It can be seen at its regular time period of 7:00 AM Sunday (January 16) and also at 3:00 PM the same day.

Smoking causes gene damage in minutes (like you didn't know!)

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Those first few puffs on a cigarette can within minutes cause genetic damage linked to cancer, US scientists said in a study released.

In fact, researchers said the "effect is so fast that it's equivalent to injecting the substance directly into the bloodstream," in findings described as a "stark warning" to those who smoke.

The study is the first on humans to track how substances in tobacco cause DNA damage, and appears in the peer-reviewed journal Chemical Research in Toxicology, issued by the American Chemical Society.

Using 12 volunteer smokers, scientists tracked pollutants called PAHs, or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, that are carried in tobacco smoke and can also be found in coal-burning plants and in charred barbecue food.

They followed one particular type -- phenanthrene, which is found in cigarette smoke -- through the blood and saw it form a toxic substance that is known to "trash DNA, causing mutations that can cause cancer," the study said.

"The smokers developed maximum levels of the substance in a time frame that surprised even the researchers: just 15-30 minutes after the volunteers finished smoking," the study said.

"These results are significant because PAH diol epoxides react readily with DNA, induce mutations, and are considered to be ultimate carcinogens of multiple PAH in cigarette smoke," the study said.

Lead scientist Stephen Hecht said the study is unique because it examines the effects of inhaling cigarette smoke, without interference from other sources of harm such as pollution or a poor diet.

"The results reported here should serve as a stark warning to those who are considering starting to smoke cigarettes," Hecht said.

Lung cancer kills about 3,000 people around the world each day, and 90 percent of those deaths are attributable to cigarette smoking.

The research was funded by the National Cancer Institute.

Michael Reagan calls brother an 'embarrassment'

Ronald Reagan’s conservative son called his liberal half-brother “an embarrassment” Saturday for speculating in a new memoir that their father suffered from Alzheimer’s disease while president.

“Ron, my brother was an embarrassment to his father when he was alive and today he became an embarrassment to his mother,” Michael Reagan posted on Twitter.

“My brother seems to want [to] sell out his father to sell books,” he added in another tweet.

The sibling tension bubbles over just three weeks before Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday, which will kick off a year of events to honor the 40th president.

In “My Father at 100,” Ron Reagan recalls early warning signs of his father losing his mental faculties. “The question,” he writes, “of whether my father suffered from the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s while in office more or less answers itself.”

Michael Reagan, adopted during President Reagan’s first marriage, comes out with his own book on Tuesday. It’s a polemic called “The New Reagan Revolution: How Ronald Reagan’s Principles Can Restore America’s Greatness.” Newt Gingrich, a likely 2012 Republican candidate for president, wrote the foreword.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, closely tied to former first lady Nancy Reagan, issued its own statement, more delicate but still forceful, pushing back on the claim that he suffered from Alzheimer’s while leading the free world.

“We believe Ron has written a wonderfully warm and engaging book about life with his father, Ronald Reagan,” the foundation said. “It offers a tribute that only a son could present. As for the topic of Alzheimer’s, this subject has been well documented over the years by both President Reagan’s personal physicians, physicians who treated him after the diagnosis, as well as those who worked closely with him daily. All are consistent in their view that signs of Alzheimer’s did not appear until well after President Reagan left the White House.”

Indeed, Reagan was not officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s until 1994.

Ron Reagan recalled the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s during an interview that aired Friday night on ABC’s “20/20,” but he also argued that it should not undercut the legacy of his father’s presidency.

In the book, he guesses that his father probably would have resigned had he known he was ill. Excerpts from the book, which doesn’t come out until Tuesday, were first published on the U.S. News & World Report’s Washington Whispers blog.

“Pray for my brother,” Michael Reagan wrote in another post on Twitter.

© 2011 Capitol News