May 13, 2018


Q&A

Welcome To Life At The Beach
Updated 07/17
 

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 About These Blogs

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“Perspective gives us the ability to accurately contrast the large with the small, and the important with the less important. Without it we are lost in a world where all ideas, news, and information look the same. We cannot differentiate, we cannot prioritize, and we cannot make good choices. “ -John Sununu

Today there are so many talking heads who daily bombard the airwaves, magazines and periodicals with their version of events and issues that affect our lives and the world. And with so many jabbers reporting what is taking place at home and abroad, often it becomes difficult to distinguish what’s accurate and what’s not. Thus, it’s up to each of us to dig below the headlines to distinguish fact from fiction in order to make a near clean conscience decision as to what the truth might be.

These Blogs are filled with articles and opinions that is not necessarily headlines or openly discussed. It's also filled with an accumulation of insightful information for a bit more clarity of the issues, including pictures and videos for your entertainment.

It's my hope that these blogs will be an open window for a better understanding of the world around us, and through this understanding try and make life better for all. There is no one perfect way, but hopefully with eyes open we can rise above the hype and find mutual awareness that will, hopefully, resolve our differences. It’s also a place where readers, like you, can contribute to the conversation.

Blogs

LIFE AT THE BEACH is strictly about opinions and information seldom included into headline news. It attempts to point beyond the headlines to allow you the reader to understand what the issues might truly be, ugly or otherwise.

FAITH is pretty much a mirror of Life At The Beach. The difference, Faith Blog is spiritual without the “religion”. It’s not about converting, but solely to enlighten, as well as challenge our faith. Since faith is a personal journey it’s important to be knowledgeable of the facts in order to avoid being manipulated by a system that is prtty much void of the truth.

ODEUM is all about videos, entertainment news, reviews and more. You should be aware that some content posted may be to controversial for some.

JOURNAL and MY DEZIGNS are my own. My Journal is filled with post from my own journey through life, and, My Dezigns, is a display of my art and crafts which is available for purchase.

- Posting Schedule -

Bi-Weekly
(not written in stone)

Monday Holidays - Will Post The Day After

Vacation - June-July

Always remember, Knowledge Is Power. The more you search to understand, life can be a journey filled with enlightened confidence and positive choices.

Enjoy your visit.

To All The Mom's Out There ...



Happy Mother's Day

Apr 29, 2018

Trumpsville


Guns: Both Sides Now


Viva Kenya! (A Kenyan Joke)

While driving a BMW, the driver was stopped at a roadblock, and a Namanga police officer approached and said, 'Congratulations! Because you are wearing a seat belt, you have just won 50,000 bobs in the 'Arrive Alive' traffic safety competition.

Njoroge, the driver, could hardly believe his ears!

'So, what are you going to do with the cash?' asked the cop.

'Eish! I'm going to get a driver's license,' Njoroge answered.

'Aww! Please sir, don't listen to him,' yelled Mwangi in the passenger seat. 'He always tries to be smart when he is drunk!'

With all the noise, Boniface woke up from his sleep in the back seat, who moaned upon seeing the cop, 'You guys! I told you, stealing the BMW was a bad, bad idea! We should have taken the red Mazda instead. . .but you think you are always the cleva ones!'

At that moment, there was a loud knock from the car's boot (that is, the car's trunk, for Americans) and a voice asked, 'Are we over the border yet?'

At that point, the cop asked: 'Okay, my brothers, how are we sharing the 50,000 bobs?

Funny? Sort of. . .but it happens in many (if not all) countries today. Many folks, including those who supposedly hold "responsible" positions, are crooked and can not be trusted! -Contributed by Ralph

A Divorce Proposal

Written by a young American  law college student

Dear American Liberals, Leftists, Social Progressives, Marxists, Socialists, and Obama lovers/supporters, et al:

We have stuck together for decades for the kids' and the future generations' sake, but the national turn of events since 2009 up to the present have made me realize that a divorce is the only solution because it has sadly become very obvious that our relationship has clearly run its course.

Our two ideological sides how to run America cannot and will never agree on what is right for us all, so let's just end our relationship on friendly terms. We can then smile and chalk it up to irreconcilable differences and go our own separate ways.

Below is a divorce proposal, which, hopefully, you will fully agree with.

First of all, let us divide the land with each one taking a fairly equal portion. It may be difficult, but surely, as adults, we can come to an amicable and equitable solution. After that, the rest should be relatively easy and we can divide the assets with very little, if any, problem because each side has very distinct and disparate tastes.

Thus:

1) You and your like-minded friends are welcome to the liberal judges and the ACLU as well as redistributive taxes. We'll take the guns/firearms, the cops, the NRA and the military which you neither like nor appreciate anyway.

2) You can go with wind, solar, and biodiesel while we take the nasty smelling oil industry and coal mines.

3) You are more than welcome to have Al Sharpton, (Hanoi) Jane Fonda, Eric Holder, Jesse Jackson, Shirley McClaine, Michael Moore, Barack Obama, Rosie O'Donnell, Sean Penn, Charlie & Martin Sheen, Barbara Streisand, Ted Turner, and Oprah Winfrey; we'll keep Bill O'Reilly.

4) You can have Extremism, Marxism, Radicalism, Socialism. We'll keep Capitalism, the greedy corporations, pharmaceutical companies, Wal-Mart and Wall Street.

5) You can have all the atheists, drug addicts/deviants, gangbangers, homeless, hippies, illegal immigrants, social activists, psycho/sociopaths, welfare/food stamps and government subsidy recipients. We'll have the Alaska hockey moms, fundamentalists/Bible & Jesus lovers, and rednecks.

6) You can have ABC, CBS, NBC, Hollywood, Hamas, Iran, and North Korea; we'll keep Israel, PBS, and the right to invade and hammer places that threaten us.

7) You can have the peaceniks and war protesters; we'll keep our allies and those who prefer our way of life, and provide them security if/when they come under attack.

8) You are more than welcome to Big Bang/Evolution, Islam, Humanism, Political Correctness, Scientology, Secularism, sexual freedom and same sex marriage. You can have the United Nations, too, but please note. . .we will no longer pay for UN's bills! We'll keep our Judeo-Christian beliefs and values.

9) We'll keep the SUV's, pick-up trucks and over-sized luxury cars. You can take every Volt and Leaf.

10) You can have ObamaCare; hopefully, you can find enough willing physicians to provide care. We'll keep the present "disease care"/healthcare system.

11) We'll keep "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "The Star-Spangled Banner". You are free to choose whatever song you want as your national anthem and hymn. [We heard you might like: "Imagine", "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing", "Kum Ba Ya" or "We Are the World".]

12) We'll continue to practice trickle-down economics. You can pursue trickle-up poverty or whatever type of economics makes you happy.

13) Since they often offend you, we'll keep the original American history, the country's original name: The United States of America, and the American flag! You can write your own version of history, choose a country name that suits you, and a flag which you can proudly display and not burn or trample upon.

Certainly, you agree with all of the above, don't you? If you do, then you and your pals on the Left are free to go your way, while the rest of us on the Right go ours.

Very sincerely,
John J. Wall, a Conservative American Law Student

P.S. By the way, you don't need to press "1" for English if/when you call us.

~Contributed by Ralph

Smoky Asparagus Tofu Scramble. Spring Vegan Gluten Free Recipe

Ingredients:

1 tsp oil
1/3 cup red onion
2 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes or to taste
1/4 tsp Chipotle pepper powder
1 cup chopped Asparagus, 3/4 -1 inch
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 tsp Italian herb blend
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
a generous pinch of kala namak/black salt for the eggy taste.
2 tsp nutritional yeast (optional)
1/4 - 1/2 tsp salt (to taste)
1 medium tomato chopped small
1/2 14 oz pack firm Tofu, crumbled. I use Nasoya organic non gmo a generous dash of black pepper cilantro and lemon juice for garnish

Variations: Add in 2 Tbsp Daiya pepper jack and mix in before serving.
Add garam masala instead of all the spices. Add in greens when you add tomatoes.

Method:
  • In a pan, add oil and heat at medium. Add onions and garlic and cook until just about translucent. 3-4 minutes. 
  • Add the pepper flakes, paprika and chipotle pepper. mix and cook for a minute to slightly burn/smoke the spices and infuse the onions. 
  • Add in the Asparagus and cook covered until bright green. 2-3 minutes. 
  • Add the red bell pepper and all the spices and salt. Mix well.
  • Add the tomato, mix and cook for 2-3 minutes until slightly mushy.
  • Mash/crumble the tofu with hands or chop small and add to the pan. Mix well
  • Mix, cover and cook for 5 minutes. If the scramble begins to stick, deglaze with a Tbsp of water. I don't press the Tofu before use, so usually there is enough moisture to prevent sticking. 
  • Taste and adjust salt and spice. Lower the heat to low-medium and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
  • Sprinkle black pepper, lemon juice and cilantro(optional) and serve.
Notes: Use Hemp tofu, cooked Chickpeas or White Beans, chopped corn or quinoa polenta to make soy-free.

For a Non-smoky version. Cook the onions, garlic and asparagus together for a few minutes, then add all the spices together. Mix and add peppers and tomato and cook until tomato is mushy. Add tofu and cook till done.

Apr 1, 2018

Mar 18, 2018

Federal Court Just Ruled For Gay Rights In A Major Discrimination Case

The decision is a loss for the Justice Department, which argued that a 1964 civil rights law doesn’t protect gay workers.

by Dominic Holden

A federal appeals court on Monday ruled that a 1964 civil rights law bans anti-gay workplace discrimination. The decision rebukes the Trump administration — which had argued against a gay worker in the case — and hands progressives a win in their strategy to protect LGBT employees with a drumbeat of lawsuits.

The dispute hinges on whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans discrimination on the basis of sex, also bans workplace discrimination due to sexual orientation.

The Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled Monday, “We now hold that sexual orientation discrimination constitutes a form of discrimination ‘because of . . . sex,’ in violation of Title VII.” In doing so, the court overruled a lower court — and a precedent from two previous court cases — and remanded the case to be litigated in light of their reading of Title VII.

The decision holds national implications due to its high tier in the judicial system, and because it’s seen as a litmus test of the Trump administration’s ability — or inability — to curb LGBT rights through court activism. The Justice Department had injected itself into the case even though it wasn’t a party to the lawsuit and doesn’t normally involve itself in private employment disputes.

The case was heard in New York City by all 13 judges in the 2nd Circuit, known as an en banc hearing, which leaves the Supreme Court as the only avenue for a potential appeal.

The ruling comes soon after another major gay-rights ruling in 2017, thereby giving momentum to the argument that anti-gay discrimination is prohibited even without a federal law that explicitly says so.

"Sexual orientation is a function of sex and, by extension, sexual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination," the majority wrote. 

In reaching its decision Monday, the court pointed out that anti-gay discrimination would not exist "but for" a person's sex. That is to say, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals would not experience this type of unequal treatment had they been born a different gender, or were attracted to a different sex.

"A woman who is subject to an adverse employment action because she is attracted to women would have been treated differently if she had been a man who was attracted to women," the majority wrote in an opinion led by Judge Robert Katzmann. "We can therefore conclude that sexual orientation is a function of sex and, by extension, sexual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination."

Although no federal law directly bans anti-LGBT discrimination in workplaces, in 2010, Donald Zarda sued his employer, Altitude Express, Inc., alleging the company terminated him for his sexual orientation in violation of Title VII.

Zarda’s lawyers deployed an emerging legal argument that contends Title VII applies to gay workers.
That position has been adopted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a largely autonomous federal agency that handles civil rights disputes in the workplace and supported Zarda in court.

An EEOC lawyer told the judges at a September hearing in Manhattan, “Sex stereotyping says that if you are a man attracted to a man, or a woman attracted to a woman, you’re not behaving the way those genders are supposed to behave.”

But the Justice Department took opposite stance, thereby pitting the federal government against itself.

“There is a common-sense difference between sex discrimination and sexual orientation discrimination,” a Justice Department attorney told the court in September, arguing that Congress could have clarified the law but didn’t.

The discord between agencies stems from the Trump administration turning away from the Obama administration’s LGBT-friendly trajectory, thereby letting lawyers under US Attorney General Jeff Sessions clash with more autonomous corners of the federal bureaucracy.

Under Sessions, the Justice Department has tried to roll back several LGBT gains, rescinding Obama-era policy that protects transgender students and reversing a policy that said Title VII protects transgender workers. Sessions also filed a brief at the Supreme Court in favor of a Christian baker who refused a wedding cake to a gay couple, and in Zarda’s case, argued Title VII also doesn’t encompass sexual orientation.

 A dissenting judge countered that Congress "did not then prohibit, and alas has not since prohibited, discrimination based on sexual orientation."

A dissenting judge countered that Congress "did not then prohibit, and alas has not since prohibited, discrimination based on sexual orientation."

The Obama administration had tried to skirt the issue of whether Title VII covered gay workers. In 2012, the administration sought to dismiss a sexual orientation lawsuit based on Title VII by saying a plaintiff failed to prove the facts to support the sex-stereotyping claim. In 2016, the Obama administration arguably dialed back its position when it didn’t even try to dismiss a similar lawsuit.

On Monday, the 2nd Circuit found "sexual orientation is doubly delineated by sex because it is a function of both a person’s sex and the sex of those to whom he or she is attracted. Logically, because sexual orientation is a function of sex and sex is a protected characteristic under Title VII, it follows that sexual orientation is also protected."

But in a 74-page dissent, Judge Gerard Lynch wrote that Congress had not intended to outlaw anti-gay discrimination when it approved Title VII's language in 1964. And in contrast to dozens of states that have explicitly passed laws banning anti-LGBT workplace discrimination, he argued Congress "has not done so yet."

Lynch wrote that Title VII "was intended to secure the rights of women to equal protection in employment" and that Congress "did not then prohibit, and alas has not since prohibited, discrimination based on sexual orientation."

Likewise, Justice Department spokesperson Devin O'Malley, in a statement to BuzzFeed News, made an argument that the majority overstepped Congress's intent when it enacted Title VII.

"We remain committed to the fundamental principle that the courts cannot expand the law beyond what Congress has provided," O'Malley said. "The position that the Department advocated in this case has been its longstanding position across Administrations and remains the law of nine different Courts of Appeals.

But Judge Raymond Lohier rebutted that thinking in a concurring opinion, saying that Judge Lynch was misguided to speculate on Congress's intent.

"Time and time again," Lohier wrote, "the Supreme Court has told us that the cart of legislative history is pulled by the plain text, not the other way around. The text here pulls in one direction, namely, that sex includes sexual orientation."

Courts seem a ways off from resolving Title VII’s scope on LGBT issues. In April 2017, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a lesbian who made the same claim that she was protected by Title VII. But in December, the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge from 11th Circuit, which said Title VII does not cover gay workers. –Buzz Feed

Bill Gates' Dire Warning: U.S. Could Lose Its Global Leadership Role Under Trump

by Marco della Cava

Tech pioneer Bill Gates thinks the U.S. can keep its historically influential role as a global leader. But for a second year in a row, he cautioned that the nation risks losing its geopolitical clout if the Trump administration succeeds in slashing foreign aid, as proposed Monday in a new federal budget that prioritizes a jump in military spending. Last year, the White House tried to reduce foreign aid by one-third, but Congress did not approve the cuts.

“I hope we can keep our reputation in a deserved way,” Gates said in a phone interview in late January as talk of U.S. budget cuts rumbled.

If the U.S. diminishes its role providing aid to poor countries, it could both disappoint allies and allow rival superpowers to step in and exert their influence overseas, he says.

“They’ll find China and others to help them out," he said of developing world countries that rely on foreign humanitarian aid. 

During Trump's State of the Union speech last month, he asked Congress to pass laws requiring aid only be doled out to "friends" of the U.S., based in large part how countries vote on big issues at the United Nations.

Gates points out even his sizeable philanthropic spend is dwarfed by the tens of billions of dollars that countries, including the U.S. and United Kingdom, typically funnel to international programs.
Last year, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spent $4 billion on initiatives that battle malaria, HIV and other global health scourges, the bulk of which afflict many of the 1.2 billion people living in Africa.

“Africa is still a place where people have positive feelings about the United States and its role,” Gates told USA TODAY as the foundation prepared to release the 10th annual letter summarizing the foundation's efforts.

His optimistic comment takes on particular meaning following the outrage among many African and U.S. leaders last month when Trump compared African countries and Haiti to an outhouse.

Trump’s America First message has been on Gates’ mind for some time. In January 2017, he told USA TODAY:

“If you interpret America First in certain ways, it would suggest not prioritizing the stability of Africa and American leadership.”

Worries about a domino effect that could erode the United States' global standing reflect the Microsoft's co-founder's role on the world stage — from running a PC giant to, since relinquishing full-time Microsoft duties in 2008, leading the planet's biggest philanthropy with his wife, Melinda.
This year, Gates, 62, and his wife decided their annual letter would answer 10 self-imposed questions. (Although not known for wise-cracking, Gates quips to the reporter: “That’s right, we’re taking your job away, we generated them with a computer.”)

Among the queries:

Why not spend more on climate change? Bill says he invests in potential solutions personally but feels philanthropy should focus on areas where corporations and governments don’t focus; Melinda says helping third-world farmers get more from the land to withstand a changing climate is critical.

Does saving lives lead to overpopulation? Melinda says the opposite is true because when mothers know their babies will live, they have fewer children; Bill notes that the number of children under 5 who die has been cut in half to 5 million since their efforts began, and those surviving children could
 now live longer with pioneering microbiome research that studies bacteria that live in the gut.

Are Trump’s policies affecting your work? Bill, who says this is the most common question he gets of late, is diplomatic, saying he believes in dialog and is thankful Congress is still debating those sweeping aid cuts. Melinda is blunt, saying that she wishes the president would role model better and “treat people, and especially women, with more respect when he speaks and tweets.”

As husband and wife duos go, the Gates hold a powerful megaphone and can summon world leaders to the phone with ease.

Little surprise there. Since its inception in 2000 through 2016, the foundation — which is fueled in part by billions from Bill Gates’ friend and mentor Warren Buffett — has doled out $41.3 billion, and has a trust endowment of $40.3 billion.

The organization distributes around $4 billion in annual grants, and the Gates say the plan remains to exhaust all of the foundation's funds within 20 years of the couple's death. 

“I have nothing against foundations that work in perpetuity, but ours will come to an end,” he says, citing the Ford and Rockefeller foundations. “In the future, there will be rich people who will act on the issues of the time.”

In fact, the Gates have had an impact on swelling the ranks of future philanthropists. The Giving Pledge, initiated by Gates and Buffett in 2010, now has more than 170 signatories, men and women committed to donating the bulk of their wealth within their lifetimes.

“You’re seeing new pledgers out of India, China and even Africa, so to see this be a global phenomenon is really great, and it’s way more than Warren and I would have expected,” he says. “When someone like (Facebook founder) Mark Zuckerberg gets involved, that makes wealthy people in their 30s think maybe they should start thinking about this stuff, which is far earlier than I did.”

Gates says he and his wife will spend the coming years focused on the foundation’s twin pillars, global health and U.S. education.

Among its global health achievements, the foundation says malaria cases are down by 60% since 2000, according to the World Health Organization. And since 2016, 300 million women and girls in 69 of the world’s poorest countries have gotten access to contraceptives, and 86% of the world’s children now receive vaccinations.

In education, it has supported nearly 20,000 high-achieving, low-income, minority students with education scholarships since 2000.

“The world does keep improving, and hopefully we’ll help allow more people to see those improvements,” says Gates, who believes artificial intelligence — which has top tech minds including Zuckerberg and Tesla CEO Elon Musk locked in debate over its pros and cons — will help usher in a new era of productivity and progress.

“I’m a huge believer in AI, which I often spend time advising Microsoft on since they’re investing in this heavily,” he says. “The positives can be huge. New drug discoveries, or maybe (an AI) agent that can help a kid who needs tutoring. There are just so many ways AI will trigger a new age of innovation.”

Gates allows that AI “will have its challenges, and we should be talking about them,” a nod to a number of new organizations — such as Open AI, Google's DeepMind and Microsoft's own in-house team — that have sprouted up to ensure that companies consider the ethical implications of advancing artificial intelligence.

“But we are also possibly looking at the next level of productivity that can help people with special needs, the elderly,” says Gates. “Thank god for innovation, otherwise we’d fall short on the expectations people will have of the coming years.”

People such as his and Melinda’s three children, who are now young adults. Gates demurs when asked what the Gates family dinner conversations are like but says simply that he and his wife are clear about their parental message.

“We’ve said we’ll give them a great education and hopefully they’ll find careers that they love and that can help them help people, which is where they’ll find their greatest fulfillment,” he says. “We’ve chosen to say, you won’t have billions, which could be a negative. Hopefully, they see us role modeling. They’re young still, but I’d say so far, so good.” -USA Today

Trump Wants More Guns In Schools

Donald Trump Ranked Worst President In US History

by Emily Shugerman

Nearly 200 of America's top political scientists have voted Donald Trump the worst president in US history.

According to the 2018 Presidents & Executive Politics Presidential Greatness Survey, Mr Trump ranks even lower than disgraced President Richard Nixon – even among conservatives. Abraham Lincoln, unsurprisingly, takes the top prize. Mr Nixon sits at 33.

The study, conducted every four years, surveys social science researchers from the American Political Science Association’s section on presidents and executive politics. It asks the experts to rank each president’s greatness on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being great, 50 being average, and 0 being a total failure.

Mr Trump averaged a score of 12.34, bumping James Buchanan – the president who saw the US descend into the Civil War – out of the bottom spot. The result comes just months after Trump finished his first year in office as the most unpopular president in modern history.

Mr Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, jumped 10 places since the survey was last conducted in 2014, to spot number eight. George W Bush also climbs in the rankings, making it five places up to number 30.

Bill Clinton did not fair was well as the other living presidents, dropping five places down to 14th. Only Andrew Jackson dropped more – down six places – possibly owing to increased attention on how he treated Native Americans.

The top seven presidents remained the exact same, with Abraham Lincoln on top, followed by George Washington, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.

Mr Trump was accompanied in the bottom five by Andrew Johnson, Franklin Pierce, William Harrison, and Mr Buchanan.

Researchers Brandon Rottinghaus, of the University of Houston, and Justin Vaughn, of Boise State University, said they surveyed 170 political science experts for the study. Of those experts, 57.2 per cent identified as Democrats, 12.7 per cent as Republicans, and 27.1 per cent as independents.

While Republicans and Democrats differed on how they viewed figures like Mr Obama and Mr Bush, they were in fairly close agreement on My Trump: Conservatives voted him 40th out of 45.

The one area where Mr Trump did come out on top was in the “most polarising” section, in which the researchers asked the scientists to list the five presidents they found most divisive. Mr Trump was ranked most polarising by 90 of the 170 respondents, and second-most polarising by another 20. –Yahoo

Quotable Quotes By Some Famous People

Sometimes, when I look at my children, I say to myself,
'Lillian, you should have remained a virgin.'
- Lillian Carter (Jimmy Carter's mother) -

<><>

I had a rose named after me and I was very flattered.
But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue:
'No good in a bed, but fine against a wall.'
- Eleanor Roosevelt -

<><>

Recently, I stated that a certain woman was the ugliest woman I had ever seen. I have since been visited by her sister, and now wish to withdraw that statement.
- Mark Twain -

<><>
The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending, and to have the two as close together as possible.
- George Burns -

<><>
Santa Claus has the right idea.
Visit people only once a year.
- Victor Borge -

<><>
Be careful about reading health books.
You may die of a misprint.
- Mark Twain -

<><>
By all means, marry.
If you get a good wife, you'll become happy;
if you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher.
- Socrates -

<><>


I was married by a judge.
I should have asked for a jury.
- Groucho Marx -

<><>
My wife has a slight impediment in her speech.
Every now and then she stops to breathe.
- Jimmy Durante -

<><>
I have never hated a man enough to give his diamonds back.
- Zsa Zsa Gabor -

<><>
Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat.
- Alex Levine -

<><>
My luck is so bad that
if I bought a cemetery, people would stop dying.
- Rodney Dangerfield -

<><>
Money can't buy you happiness....
But it does bring you a more pleasant form of misery.
- Spike Milligan -

<><>
Until I was thirteen, I thought my name was SHUT UP.
- Joe Namath -

<><>
I don't feel old.
I don't feel anything until noon.
Then it's time for my nap.
- Bob Hope -

<><>
I never drink water because of the disgusting things that fish do in it.
- W. C. Fields -

<><>
We could certainly slow the aging process down
if it had to work its way through Congress.
- Will Rogers -

<><>
Don't worry about avoiding temptation.
As you grow older, it will avoid you.
- Winston Churchill -

<><>
Maybe it's true that life begins at fifty...
But everything else starts to wear out, fall out, or spread out..
- Phyllis Diller -

<><>
By the time a man is wise enough to watch his step,
he's too old to go anywhere.
- Billy Crystal -

<><>
The cardiologist's diet: If it tastes good, spit it out.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
May your troubles be less,
may your blessings be more,
and may nothing but happiness
come through your door.

-Contribution by Ralph-

More Guns Do Not Stop More Crimes, Evidence Shows

More firearms do not keep people safe, hard numbers show. Why do so many Americans believe the opposite?

by Melinda Wenner Moyer

In Brief
  • The claim that gun ownership stops crime is common in the U.S., and that belief drives laws that make it easy to own and keep firearms
  • But about 30 careful studies show more guns are linked to more crimes: murders, rapes, and others. Far less research shows that guns help.
  • Interviews with people in heavily gun-owning towns show they are not as wedded to the crime defense idea as the gun lobby claims.
After I pulled the trigger and recovered from the recoil, I slowly refocused my eyes on the target. There it was—a tiny but distinct circle next to the zombie's eye, the first bullet hole I'd ever made. I looked down at the shaking Glock 19 in my hands. A swift and strong emotional transformation swept over me. In seconds, I went from feeling nervous, even terrified, to exhilarated and unassailable—and right then I understood why millions of Americans believe guns keep them safe.

I was standing in a shooting range 15 miles south of Kennesaw, Ga., a place known as “America's Gun City” because of a law requiring residents to own firearms. It was day two of a four-day road trip I'd embarked on to investigate a controversial and popular claim made by the gun lobby: that more guns protect more people from crime.

Guns took more than 36,000 U.S. lives in 2015, and this and other alarming statistics have led many to ask whether our nation would be better off with firearms in fewer hands. Yet gun advocates argue exactly the opposite: that murders, crimes and mass shootings happen because there aren't enough guns in enough places. Arming more people will make our country safer and more peaceful, they say, because criminals won't cause trouble if they know they are surrounded by gun-toting good guys.

After all, since 1991 Americans have acquired 170 million new guns while murder rates have plummeted, according to the National Rifle Association of America (NRA). Donald Trump, when running for president, said of the 2015 shooting massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., that “if we had guns in California on the other side, where the bullets went in the different direction, you wouldn't have 14 or 15 people dead right now.” Mike Watkins, a cop–turned–firearm instructor at the Kennesaw range, put it this way: “If I'm a bad guy, and I know this place has guns, it's not a place I'm obviously going to want to go and do something bad.”

Is there truth to this claim? An ideal experiment would be an interventional study in which scientists would track what happened for several years after guns were given to gun-free communities and everything else was kept the same. But alas, there are no gun-free U.S. communities, and the ethics of doing such a study are dubious. So instead scientists compare what happens to gun-toting people, in gun-dense regions, with what happens to people and places with few firearms. They also study whether crime victims are more or less likely to own guns than others, and they track what transpires when laws make it easier for people to carry guns or use them for self-defense.

Most of this research—and there have been several dozen peer-reviewed studies—punctures the idea that guns stop violence. In a 2015 study using data from the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, researchers at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard University reported that firearm assaults were 6.8 times more common in the states with the most guns versus those with the least. Also in 2015 a combined analysis of 15 different studies found that people who had access to firearms at home were nearly twice as likely to be murdered as people who did not.

This evidence has been slow to accumulate because of restrictions placed by Congress on one of the country's biggest injury research funders, the CDC. Since the mid-1990s the agency has been effectively blocked from supporting gun violence research. And the NRA and many gun owners have emphasized a small handful of studies that point the other way.

I grew up in Georgia, so I decided to travel around that state and in Alabama, where the belief that guns save good people is sewn into the fabric of everyday life. I wanted to get a read on the science and listen to people with relevant experience: cops, elected officials, gun owners, injury researchers and firearm experts such as Watkins, who stood by my side as I pulled the Glock's trigger.


For clues on how guns affect violence, Kennesaw is an obvious place to start. On March 15, 1982, this city 24 miles north of Atlanta passed a controversial law: to “provide for and protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants,” Kennesaw would require that every head of a household own a firearm and ammunition.

Nearly 35 years to the day after the law passed, I drove down Cherokee Street in Kennesaw until I reached the Bobby Grant Center police annex, a small brick building perched in front of a large water tower. The annex houses the city's detectives; the main police department is a quarter of a mile down the street. I picked up the entry phone next to the locked door and buzzed. One second later a big man with a moustache and goatee, who was clearly waiting for me, let me in. He introduced himself as Lieutenant Craig Graydon, the man I was there to meet.

Graydon heads up Kennesaw's Criminal Investigations Division and keeps track of all the city's crime statistics. He led me back to his dark office, where a computer glowed with a screen saver of the cast of the old Untouchables TV show, starring Robert Stack as federal agent Eliot Ness. Graydon's great-grandfather and father were both in law enforcement. “I've been around weapons of all kinds for as long as I can remember,” he said.

Kennesaw is proud of its gun law. “Inmates have been picked up on other charges around the area, and they've said, ‘No, I would never break in a house in Kennesaw,’” Graydon said. City officials tout that a year after the law was implemented, burglaries in Kennesaw dropped by more than half; by 1985 they were down by 80 percent. “It was a selling point for the town,” according to David McDowall, a criminologist at the University at Albany, S.U.N.Y. The lavish media attention that the law received probably helps: it's not just that Kennesaw residents have guns; it's that everyone knows Kennesaw residents have guns. (That said, the rule has never been enforced, and Graydon estimates that only about half of Kennesaw's residents actually own firearms.)

But while burglary numbers did drastically decline in Kennesaw after 1981, those statistics can be misleading. McDowall took a closer look at the numbers and noticed that 1981 was an anomaly—there were 75 percent more burglaries that year than there were, on average, in the previous five years. It is no surprise that the subsequent years looked great by comparison. McDowall studied before-and-after burglary numbers using 1978, 1979 or 1980 as starting points instead of 1981 and, as he reported in a 1989 paper, the purported crime drop disappeared. Kennesaw has always had pretty minimal crime, which may have more to do with the residents and location than how many guns it has.

Yet the sense I got in Kennesaw—which feels like a typical small city, not some gun-frenzied town—is that data don't matter to a lot of people. It was similar in other places I visited. What matters more is apparent logic: guns stop criminals, so they keep people safer. The night before I met Graydon, I attended a lecture by a Second Amendment lawyer in Stone Mountain, Ga., 30 miles southeast of Kennesaw. At one point, the lawyer mentioned Samuel Colt, who popularized the revolver in the mid-19th century. “I haven't seen the statistics, but I've got to assume that the instances of rape and strong-arm robberies plummeted when those became widespread,” he said. Numbers and statistics, in other words, were almost unnecessary—everyone just knows that where there are more guns, there is less crime.

So what does the research say? By far the most famous series of studies on this issue was conducted in the late 1980s and 1990s by Arthur Kellermann, now dean of the F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and his colleagues. In one, published in 1993 in the New England Journal of Medicine and funded by the CDC, he and his colleagues identified 444 people who had been killed between 1987 and 1992 at home in three U.S. regions—Shelby County, Tennessee, King County, Washington State, and Cuyahoga County, Ohio—and then collected details about them and their deaths from local police, medical examiners and people who had been close to the victims. They found that a gun in the home was associated with a nearly threefold increase in the odds that someone would be killed at home by a family member or intimate acquaintance.

These findings directly contradict the rationale I kept hearing in Georgia, and that could be because human behavior is a lot messier than simple logic predicts. Researchers posit that even if keeping a gun at home does thwart the odd break-in, it may also change the gun owner's behavior in ways that put that person and his or her family more at risk. “The fact that you have a gun may mean that you do things you shouldn't be doing: you take chances you shouldn't otherwise take; you go to places where it's really not safe, but you feel safe,” says David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. This added risk may overpower any protective effects.

There's also the fact that where there are more guns, more opportunities exist for people to steal them and use them nefariously. Indeed, one of Kennesaw's crime problems, Graydon told me, is gun theft, so the Kennesaw Police Department encourages residents to lock their guns up. The NRA, on the other hand, opposes legislation that requires secure gun storage.

The initial work by Kellermann and his colleagues was criticized for not using enough statistical controls. So they went on to publish other studies confirming the link between guns and more violence. In one, they found that a gun in the home was tied to a nearly fivefold increase in the odds of suicide. (More Americans die from gun suicides every year than gun homicides.) In another, published in 1998, they reported that guns at home were four times more likely to cause an accidental shooting, seven times more likely to be used in assault or homicide, and 11 times more likely to be used in a suicide than they were to be used for self-defense.

The research made headlines in the New York Times and the Washington Post. It also infuriated the gun lobby, which launched a war against gun research that persists today.

One veteran of that war is injury researcher Mark Rosenberg. I drove to Rosenberg's Atlanta-area home—only 15 miles from where I lived as a child—after leaving the Kennesaw Police Department, and we sat down in his living room. In the late 1990s Rosenberg was the director of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, which then funded and studied gun violence. He said he was fired from the agency in 1999 for pushing ahead with this research despite political opposition, although his boss at the time, whom I contacted, disagreed that Rosenberg's actions on gun research caused his dismissal.

I asked Rosenberg what happened after the Kellermann studies came out. “The NRA started a multipronged attack on us,” he recounted. “They called the CDC a cesspool of junk science.” Indeed, soon after Kellermann's early studies were published, the NRA ran an article in its official journal, the American Rifleman, encouraging readers to protest the CDC's use of tax dollars to “conduct anti-gun pseudo-scientific studies disguised as research.” The association also asked the National Institute of Health's Office of Scientific Integrity to investigate Kellermann and his colleagues, but it declined. Todd Adkins, current director of research and information at the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, told me via e-mail that the association was reacting because CDC scientists had started a campaign to persuade Americans that firearms are a menace to public health and ignored data that did not support this idea.

As the dispute continued, Representative Jay Dickey of Arkansas introduced a rider into the CDC's 1996 spending bill mandating that none of its funding be used to advocate or promote gun control. Congress also cut out $2.6 million of the CDC's budget, the exact amount that had been allocated for firearm research the previous year. (Later, that funding was restored but was earmarked for traumatic brain injury.) Harvard's Hemenway says that the move “was a shot across the bow: ‘We're watching you.’” He adds that “the CDC recognized that they better be really, really, really, really careful about guns if they wanted to have an Injury Center.”

Dickey's addition to the CDC's funding bill has been renewed every year since. In fact, in 2011 the language was extended to cover all Department of Health and Human Services agencies, including the NIH. But Dickey later said that he did not intend to put a stop to all gun research—and he wished that he hadn't. He died this past April.


The CDC's hands are still tied. After the 2012 school shooting that took the lives of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Conn., President Barack Obama signed an executive order requesting that the CDC spend $10 million on gun violence research. But Congress did not appropriate the funds. In fact, according to Linda DeGutis, who directed the CDC's Injury Center from 2010 to 2014, agency employees weren't even allowed to discuss Newtown.

“We couldn't talk to the media except on background. We couldn't be quoted on anything,” she recalls. “There were CDC staff members who wouldn't even mention the word ‘gun.’” (Current staffers declined to be interviewed for this article.)

Garen Wintemute, a physician and noted gun violence researcher at the University of California, Davis, is not terribly surprised that everything went down the way it did. “It's like doing work in any other controversial field that threatens established interests. Those interests respond in a way to minimize the threat,” he says. Rosenberg, after leaving the CDC, became CEO of a nonprofit that works to improve health in developing countries (he retired from that role last year). But Wintemute and others have continued with gun research, procuring grants from private foundations and government agencies such as the National Institute of Justice. In 2005 Wintemute started using his own private money to fund his research and has spent about $1.7 million so far.

More than 30 peer-reviewed studies, focusing on individuals as well as populations, have been published that confirm what Kellermann's studies suggested: that guns are associated with an increased risk for violence and homicide. “There is really uniform data to support the statement that access to firearms is associated with an increased risk of firearm-related death and injury,” Wintemute concludes. Gun advocates argue the causes are reversed: surges in violent crime lead people to buy guns, and weapons do not create the surge. But if that were true, gun purchases would increase in tandem with all kinds of violence. In reality, they do not.

When I asked people I met on my trip to Georgia for their thoughts on how guns influence violence, many said they couldn't believe that guns were a root cause. “It's easier to go after the object than it is to go after the motive,” Graydon told me. He does have a point: A growing body of research suggests that violence is a contagious behavior that exists independent of weapon or means. In this framework, guns are accessories to infectious violence rather than fountainheads. But this does not mean guns don't matter. Guns intensify violent encounters, upping the stakes and worsening the outcomes—which explains why there are more deaths and life-threatening injuries where firearms are common. Violence may be primarily triggered by other violence, but these deadly weapons make all this violence worse.

My next stop, Scottsboro, Alabama, is within a county where nearly one in every five people has a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Overall in Alabama, an estimated 12 percent of residents have permission to carry concealed firearms, possibly the highest such rate in the country. Jackson County, home to Scottsboro, ranks close to the top of the state with that nearly one-in-five figure. I wanted to know if people in this sleepy town just north of the Tennessee River commonly used these hidden guns to thwart crime.

I left Rosenberg's home and drove 120 miles northwest. I drove past an Econo Lodge, a No. 1 China Buffet and a CashMart and then parked at the Jackson County courthouse, an impressive Neoclassical brick building with a clock tower. Scottsboro gained notoriety in 1931, when eight black youths were sentenced to death in its courthouse by an all-white jury after being falsely accused of raping two white women, a decision that was appealed up to the U.S. Supreme Court. After passing through the metal detectors, I meandered around in search of the sheriff's office, which I eventually found at the back of the ground floor. A receptionist walked me in to meet Sheriff Chuck Phillips, who was sitting at his desk with his chief deputy, Rocky Harnen. A sheet entitled “Handgun Fundamentals” hung on the wall behind the desk.

“I promise you, everybody here that wants a gun has got one or 100,” Phillips told me, drawling out the number so it sounded like “hunnerd.” I asked how many times Scottsboro residents had used their guns to protect themselves. “I've been doing this for 35 years, and I just can't recall one,” the sheriff answered. Harnen, though, suddenly remembered something. “We did have a lady that was in one of our firearms classes. She had a guy try to break into her house,” he recalled. “She yelled and said, ‘I've got a gun,’ and she opened the door, and he was running away—she fired at him.”

But they could not think of any other examples. Graydon, back in Kennesaw, also could not remember a time when a resident used a gun in self-defense, and he has been working for the police department for 31 years.

The frequency of self-defense gun use rests at the heart of the controversy over how guns affect our country. Progun enthusiasts argue that it happens all the time. In 1995 Gary Kleck, a criminologist at Florida State University, and his colleague Marc Gertz published a study that elicited what has become one of the gun lobby's favorite numbers. They randomly surveyed 5,000 Americans and asked if they, or another member of the household, had used a gun for self-protection in the past year. A little more than 1 percent of the participants answered yes, and when Kleck and Gertz extrapolated their results, they concluded that Americans use guns for self-defense as many as 2.5 million times a year.

This estimate is, however, vastly higher than numbers from government surveys, such as the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), which is conducted in tens of thousands of households. It suggests that victims use guns for self-defense only 65,000 times a year. In 2015 Hemenway and his colleagues studied five years' worth of NCVS data and concluded that guns are used for self-defense in less than 1 percent of all crimes that occur in the presence of a victim. They also found that self-defense gun use is about as effective as other defensive maneuvers, such as calling for help. “It's not as if you look at the data, and it says people who defend themselves with a gun are much less likely to be injured,” says Philip Cook, an economist at Duke University, who has been studying guns since the 1970s.

Kleck and Getz's survey and the NCVS differ in important ways that could help explain the discrepancy between them. The NCVS first establishes that someone has been the victim of an attack before asking about self-defense gun use, which weeds out yes answers from people who might, say, wave their gun around during a bar fight and call it self-defense. Kleck and Getz's survey could overestimate self-defense use by including such ambiguous uses. Kleck counters that the NCVS might underestimate self-defense because people who do not trust government surveyors will be afraid to admit that they used their gun. Yet people who participate in the NCVS are told at the start that they are protected under federal law and that their responses will remain anonymous.


A closer look at the who, what, where and why of gun violence also sheds some light on the self-defense claim. Most Americans with concealed carry permits are white men living in rural areas, yet it is young black men in urban areas who disproportionately encounter violence. Violent crimes are also geographically concentrated: Between 1980 and 2008, half of all of Boston's gun violence occurred on only 3 percent of the city's streets and intersections. And in Seattle, over a 14-year-period, every single juvenile crime incident took place on less than 5 percent of street segments. In other words, most people carrying guns have only a small chance of encountering situations in which they could use them for self-defense.

Yet these numbers don't resonate with many gun owners. “Absolutely, owning a firearm makes you safer,” Phillips told me. Watkins opined that “by having a gun, it gives you the opportunity to refuse to be a victim.” (Watkins, who used to be a cop in upstate New York, did later concede that guns are rarely shot in self-defense, even by law enforcement.) In a June 2017 study, researchers surveyed American gun owners about why they owned handguns, reporting that 88 percent bought them for self-defense; many felt they were likely to become targets of violent crime at some point. This belief is so pervasive that companies have even started selling self-defense insurance. At the lecture I attended in Stone Mountain, a representative of Texas Law Shield, a firearms legal defense program, tried to get me to sign up for a service that would provide free legal representation in the event that I ever shot someone to protect myself. “You don't need it till you need it, but when you need it, you daggone sure glad you got it,” he said.

But even as the belief that we are all future crime targets has taken hold, violent crime rates have actually dropped in the U.S. in recent decades. According to the FBI, rates were a whopping 41 percent lower in 2015 than they were in 1996. The NRA attributes this decrease to the acquisition of more guns. But that is misleading. What has increased is the number of people who own multiple guns—the actual number of people and households who own them has substantially dropped.

Recently researchers have tried to assess the value of self-defense gun use by studying “stand your ground” laws, which gained notoriety after teenager Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman in Florida in 2012. These laws allow people to kill in self-defense when they feel they are in danger. Progun groups argue that they should deter crime because criminals will know that victims have no reason not to fight back. But a January 2017 study reported that when “stand your ground” was passed in Florida, the monthly homicide rate went up by nearly a quarter. And a 2012 study found that states that adopted these laws experienced an abrupt and sustained 8 percent increase in homicides relative to other states. Mark Hoekstra, a co-author of the 2012 paper and an economist at Texas A&M University, put it this way: “We found that making it easier to kill people resulted in more dead people.”

But some argue that even an unused gun can thwart crime. The logic here is that in areas with high rates of concealed carrying, criminals don't want to victimize people who might have guns, so they don't commit violent crimes. The most famous study, published in 1997 by John R. Lott, Jr., then a research fellow at the University of Chicago, and David B. Mustard, an economist now at the University of Georgia, looked at county crime rates in several states that had passed laws making it easy to get gun permits at various times prior to 1992. They compared such rates to crime levels in places that did not have easy access to guns during that period. Their hypothesis: when areas make it easier for people to get permits, more people will get guns and start carrying—and then violence will drop. Lott and Mustard developed a model, based on this comparison, that indicated that when it was easier to get permits, assaults fell by 5 percent, rapes by 7 percent and murders by 7.65 percent. Lott went on to publish a book in 1998 called More Guns, Less Crime, which tracked concealed carry laws and crime in more than 3,000 counties and reported similar findings.

Many other researchers have come to opposite conclusions. John Donohue, an economist at Stanford University, reported in a working paper in June 2017 that when states ease permit requirements, most violent crime rates increase and keep getting worse. A decade after laws relax, violent crime rates are 13 to 15 percent higher than they were before. And in 2004 the National Research Council, which provides independent advice on scientific issues, turned its attention to firearm research, including Lott's findings. It asked 15 scholars to reanalyze Lott's data because “there was such a conflict in the field about the findings,” recalls panel chair and criminologist Charles Wellford, now a professor emeritus at the University of Maryland. Lott's models, they found, could be tweaked in tiny ways to produce big changes in results. “The analyses that we did, and that others have done, show that these estimates are very fragile,” Wellford explains. “The committee, with one exception, concluded that you could not accept his conclusion that more guns meant less crime.” Wintemute summarized it this way: “There are a few studies that suggest that liberalizing access to concealed firearms has, on balance, beneficial effects. There are a far larger number of studies that suggest that it has, on balance, detrimental effects.”

Lott, who now runs the nonprofit Crime Prevention Research Center, says the panel was biased and “set up to try to go against my work.” The NRA takes a related tack: it says research highlighting the danger of weapons is part of a gun-control agenda to confiscate firearms.

It is crucial, though, to distinguish the leadership of progun organizations from their constituents, who often have more nuanced opinions. “I do own a firearm, I'm licensed, I'm actually able to train others in using a firearm—and my goal in life is to never, ever, ever have to use it,” says Tina Monaghan, a city clerk in Nelson, Ga. (In 2013 Nelson, like Kennesaw, passed a law mandating that residents own guns, but the ordinance was relaxed later that year in response to a lawsuit.) According to a 2015 survey published by Johns Hopkins University researchers, 85 percent of gun owners support background checks for all gun sales, including sales through unlicensed dealers—even though the NRA strongly opposes them.

I heard a lot more about divergence from NRA positions on my last stop in Alabama: Scottsboro Gun and Pawn, a shop perched at the end of Broad Street, one of the town's main drags. The co-owner, Robert Shook, told me about the ongoing push in the Alabama State Senate to eliminate concealed carry permits altogether, a move that would make it legal for anyone older than 18 to carry a hidden gun. (The bill passed in the Alabama Senate in April of this year but did not come up for a vote in the state's House of Representatives during the 2017 session.) “There's a lot of stuff that the NRA does that I don't agree with,” he said, standing behind a glass case filled with handguns. “They've gone farther right than the other side left. They're throwing common sense out the window.” Indeed, the NRA of today is actually more extreme than the organization used to be. In the 1930s NRA president Karl Frederick testified in Congress in support of the National Firearms Act, which restricted concealed carrying. “I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns,” Frederick said.

The belief that more guns lead to fewer crimes is founded on the idea that guns are dangerous when bad guys have them, so we should get more guns into the hands of good guys. Yet Cook, the Duke economist, says this good guy/bad guy dichotomy is a false and dangerous one. Even upstanding American citizens are only human—they can “lose their temper, or exercise poor judgment, or misinterpret a situation, or have a few drinks,” he explains, and if they're carrying guns when they do, bad things can ensue. In 2013 in Ionia, Mich., a road rage incident led two drivers—both concealed carry permit holders—to get out of their cars, take out their guns and kill each other.

As I drove from Scottsboro to Atlanta to catch my flight home, I kept turning over what I had seen and learned. Although we do not yet know exactly how guns affect us, the notion that more guns lead to less crime is almost certainly incorrect. The research on guns is not uniform, and we could certainly use more of it. But when all but a few studies point in the same direction, we can feel confident that the arrow is aiming at the truth—which is, in this case, that guns do not inhibit crime and violence but instead make it worse.

The popular gun-advocacy bumper sticker says that “guns don't kill people, people kill people”—and it is, in fact, true. People, all of us, lead complicated lives, misinterpret situations, get angry, make mistakes. And when a mistake involves pulling a trigger, the damage can't be undone. Unlike my Glock-aided attack on the zombie at the gun range, life is not target practice. –Scientific America

Immigration Animation

Is Your ID Approved For Travel? These Are The Latest Rules

The Real ID Act requires that driver’s licenses meet standards set by the Department of Homeland Security by October 2020. Many states are already compliant and others have been given extensions.

In the past several months, there has been plenty of conversation about the Real ID Act and how it will affect air travelers. Passed by Congress in 2005, the act is intended to prevent identity fraud, and starting on Oct. 1, 2020, all fliers who reside in the United States, even if they’re flying domestically, will need Real ID identification to pass through Transportation Security Administration security checkpoints at airports.

Who exactly is affected and what exactly is Real ID identification? Here, answers to questions about what the Real ID Act means for travelers and why having a passport now may be more important than ever.

What exactly is the Real ID Act?

The act is intended to enhance national security by establishing minimum standards for the secure issuance of driver’s licenses and identification cards, according to Steve Yonkers, the director of the Real ID program for the Department of Homeland Security.

“The act is meant to stop the production of fake IDs,” Mr. Yonkers said.

Why is the act being implemented?

Congress passed the act on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, which advised that the federal government set minimum security standards for how states issue identification and for how that identification is used. “The commission recognized that sources of identification are the last opportunity to ensure that people are who they say they are and to check whether they are terrorists,” Mr. Yonkers said.

When does it go into effect and for which states?

Currently, all 50 states are either compliant or have extensions, meaning none of these residents need alternative identification. There are 28 states that are now Real ID compliant, including Texas, Ohio, Florida, Nevada and Colorado, while 26 states and territories have been granted extensions until Oct. 10, 2018 by the  department.  Note that travelers from states with extensions will not likely need to have Real ID compliant identification by Oct. 10 — the date is only a deadline for the Department of Homeland Security to receive a state's request for a renewed Real ID extension, if needed.  In past years, the agency has provided a grace period for approximately 90 days before enforcement would begin for a state not granted a renewed extension.  The department will issue information about the next extension cycle later this year. For a complete list, visit dhs.gov/real-id.

“Every state is working on getting compliant with all Real ID requirements,” Mr. Yonkers said. “The states that aren’t yet compliant are the ones that are requesting extensions to give them additional time necessary to complete implementation of secure identification standards.”

How does a state work to get compliant?

According to Mr. Yonkers, the Department of Motor Vehicles employees in a compliant state have to undergo background checks. Employees also have to be able to verify an applicant’s identity and lawful status — they can do the latter by checking an applicant’s immigration status with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Also, the licenses the D.M.V. produces in a compliant state must have anti-counterfeit technology built into them such as a hologram. “They [licenses] have to be very secure documents,” Mr. Yonkers said.

But what does the Real ID Act mean for air travelers?

Right now, nothing. On Jan. 22, however, residents of two United States territories, American Samoa and Northern Mariana Islands, could be the subject of Real ID enforcement because they are still under review to get extensions. But as of Oct. 1, 2020, the T.S.A. will ask all travelers to have a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or alternate acceptable identification to fly domestically.

Travelers won’t be able to pass through security without this acceptable identification.

Will I have to apply for a new, compliant license? Or will my state send me a new, compliant one automatically?

In order to get a Real ID-compliant license, residents must physically go to a D.M.V. office with their identification documents such as a birth certificate and passport.  

What exactly qualifies as acceptable identification?

The Department of Homeland Security has designated more than a dozen forms of acceptable ID, including a passport; a border ID card; a trusted traveler card, such as Global Entry; a Real ID-compliant driver’s license; and a permanent resident card. For a complete list, visit tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification.

Is one form of acceptable identification better than another?

The department does not recommend any particular form of acceptable identification, but Brenda Sprague, who oversees passport services for the State Department, encourages all United States residents without a passport to apply for one now. The turnaround time to get a new passport during the winter is usually around four weeks. In the summer, when passport applications peak, the wait for a new passport could be up to eight weeks.

Around 136 million Americans have passports in circulation, according to the State Department — that’s only around 40 percent of the population in the United States.

O.K., you’ve convinced me, and I’m ready to apply for a new passport. What’s the best way?

Ms. Sprague said that there are more than 8,000 passport application locations around the country. Around 60 percent are post offices while the rest are courthouses and libraries. Visit the State Department’s Where to Apply link for more details. In addition, there are 27 passport agencies, where travelers can apply for rush passports. “These agencies are for people who are traveling within two weeks,” Ms. Sprague said.

This link has a list of these agencies; applicants need an appointment for a visit and can make one online at passportappointment.travel.state.gov.

Also, the State Department is collaborating with Hilton Hotels & Resorts on the Hilton Passport Project, an initiative meant to encourage more Americans to apply for passports. Every few weeks, a Hilton location in the United States will have a Passport Concierge booth, where guests and the general public can have their passport pictures taken for free and apply for or renew a passport. Between one and three employees from the State Department will be on hand to answer passport-related questions and help fill out applications. The next Passport Concierge will be at the Travel and Adventure Show, in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20 and 21. At this event, applicants will actually be able to submit their applications to a State Department employee. For a list of coming locations, visit facebook.com/Hilton.

How much does it cost to get a new passport?

First-time applicants pay $110 and a $25 application fee. Passport renewals cost $110 and expedited passports are an additional $60. If you’re renewing your passport, you can do it by mail, but if you’re getting a new passport or if your existing one is lost or stolen, you must apply in person. –NY Times